A Runner’s Guide to Outpacing Heel Pain
Running is, to put it simply, a fantastic activity.
It is beautiful in its simplicity. It is a form of exercise that can bring a sense of freedom to a hard-working businessperson stuck in an office all day, or a sense of ambition to someone wanting to push their personal bests. It is a way to not just get some fresh air, but feel it rush past you as well.
And all you have to do is just get out there and run!
… Except, well, maybe it’s not quite that simple.
If you don’t take the proper approach to running—especially as a beginner—you can increase your chances of suffering from a heel-pain causing injury. You might even already be dealing with some form of heel pain, and being reckless with running can certainly make that worse!
If you want to run, you want to keep moving. Preventing and addressing heel pain is an exceptionally important step toward maintaining that goal, and we have some advice for you on that.
Go Out in the Right Running Shoes
If you are not running in running shoes, what are you doing?!
Just plain old sneakers are not going to cut it. Neither are walking shoes nor tennis shoes. Stick to them and your heels will likely be protesting before you know it—if not your whole feet.
Running shoes are best designed to handle the repetitive impacts of our feet hitting the pavement. These forces add up to a lot over the course of a run, and can really wear you down.
Running shoes not only take this matter into mind with better support and cushioning, but many are also made to compensate for specific gait abnormalities common in many runners, such as over-pronation. Holding better control over the motion of your feet as you run will also help reduce injury risks, and even make your running a bit more efficient.
We can help you determine the best kind of running shoes for your needs, and a trained sporting goods store associate can be quite helpful as well. Even if you already have a pair of running shoes, seek out a new pair if you have worn them out or had them for more than a couple years (used or not). Shoes degrade with time and use, and they won’t help you well if they’re on death’s door.
Understand Your Limitations, and Push Them Gradually
If you’re just starting off the couch and expecting to run your first marathon in a few weeks, reality is going to hit you hard.
Not only is this goal highly lofty, but considering how hard you would have to push yourself to achieve it, it would likely lead to a run-stopping injury. Kind of ironic, right?
Our bodies need to be gradually pushed toward improvement. We literally break ourselves down on a cellular level through exercise, then let our bodies build back stronger when they rest. It’s a great deal, honestly!
But if we push ourselves too hard too soon and do not take enough time to rest, we literally wear ourselves down to the point of breaking or snapping. This is how problems like Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures, and others can develop.
When you are just starting out with running, there can be a temptation to try going all out to see where you stack up. That’s not going to help you in the long run (pun intended). Starting off gently and gradually increasing your distance and intensity will help you find your situation with much less risk to your body. Increases should never exceed 10 percent per week, whether you measure that in time or distance.
One of the best things about running is that people can take it on at their own pace. If you are concerning yourself too much with meeting unreasonable standards, make sure you’re prepared to deal with the consequences of pushing yourself too hard.
Stretch Before Takeoff
Taking things gradually over the long run is good, and so is preparing your body before you start your route.
Making your body move from a cold start is never recommended. Taking a few minutes to stretch and warm up before you run can significantly lower the risk of pain and injury.
Warming up the whole body is good, but if there is particular focus on your heels and feet, we suggest including the following:
- Calf stretches (your calf muscles connect to your heel bone, and tight muscles can put strain in this area).
- Heel raises
- Wall squats (putting hands against a wall for support, place one foot in front of you and slowly squat to stretch your heels and calves).
Don’t just stretch by standing still, though. Do some light jogging and “butt-kicks” to help warm up, too. All of this prepares your body for the paces you’re about to put it through.
Address Existing Heel Pain Now!
If your heels are already consistently hurting you for one reason or another, taking care of that as soon as possible will not only significantly help your running, but help prevent problems from becoming worse as well.
It’s possible to be a runner if you currently have heel pain. We will help you get to the root of your problem and recommend the best treatments and lifestyle shifts to help you find the relief you need, including custom orthotics and laser therapy, if necessary. The more we can do to keep you moving, the better it will often be for your overall comfort.
Our two area offices are here to help. Call us at (208) 733-0436 for Twin Falls or (208) 678-2727 for Burley.