Heel Pain – An Overuse Injury
Whether heel pain greets you first thing in the morning as you rise out of bed, or your heels wait to start complaining halfway through your exercise routine, chances are you have developed an overuse injury.
You see, doing too much too soon can wreak havoc on the feet. And when you push yourself too hard without giving your feet enough time to prepare and/or rest between activities, painful injuries will eventually start to develop.
This is especially true if you haven’t worked out for a while – this stagnant period will weaken muscles, bones, and tendons. And if you go full-throttle right out of the gate, the muscles, bones, and tendons in your feet just won’t be able to keep up with the physical demand and will start breaking down over time.
That’s why a key strategy for preventing these common injuries is to let your body adjust to increased activity. (But more on that later.)
Now, there are other risks factors that should also be taken into consideration, like wearing ill-fitting shoes and having poor biomechanics. Both cases can contribute to pushing your muscles, bones, and tendons past their limits.
Sports Activities That Cause Overuse Injuries
No matter your sport of choice, overuse injuries will always be a risk – especially if you are not caring for your feet properly.
In a just bit, we will give you some tips on how to avoid overuse injuries so you can continue being active now and in the future. But first, let’s take a look at some of the most common conditions that cause heel pain in athletes and weekend warriors alike, and which sports are typically associated with them:
- Achilles tendinitis. This painful inflammation of the Achilles tendon is most commonly associated with the side-to-side or jumping used in sports like tennis, soccer, and dancing.
- Achilles tendon rupture. This tear of the Achilles tendon is most commonly associated with swift, abrupt motions used in sports like basketball, football, and soccer.
- Stress fractures. These tiny breaks in the bone are often associated with activities or sports that involve a lot of running.
- Plantar fasciitis. This painful inflammation of the plantar fascia is typically associated with sports that involve a lot of running and jumping, like basketball.
Keep in mind that all these injuries can happen in all sports – remember, if your body is moving, you are at risk (no matter which sports you participate in). But the good news is there are plenty of steps you can take to make sure heel pain won’t hold you back from performing your best (or even at all).
Protect Your Heels (and Avoid Overuse Injuries)
The good news is that overuse injuries of the foot can usually be easily avoided. So without further ado, let’s take a look at how you can prevent painful heels caused by overuse injuries:
Give your body time to adjust
We have treated many patients who developed heel pain simply because they decided to train for a marathon and suddenly went, for example, from running five miles to 10 miles right off the bat. This, they soon find, is a recipe for disaster.
Instead, slowly increase activity levels to allow your body enough time to adapt and strengthen. Start at a pace you know you can handle, Then, follow the “10 percent rule,” and increase the activity by only 10 percent each week.
Know your limitations
Unfortunately, some people are just prone to developing heel pain due to anatomical factors, like having flat feet. When foot deformities come into play, you also have to consider the added strain your feet have to endure due to these abnormalities.
Custom orthotics are a great way to provide the exact support and protecting your feet from injury – and we can get you fitted for your very own pair right here at our office!
Never push through the pain
We all know the saying “No pain, no gain.” But the truth is not all pain equals gain. In fact, pain can often keep you from being active, and this means losing what you worked so hard to gain.
So listen to your body. If you feel discomfort that differs from how you normally feel after a workout, your body is telling you to slow down and rest so that your body can adjust and restore itself. (Which takes us to our next point …)
Give your feet time to recover
Rest is actually a crucial part of preventing heel pain caused by overuse injuries, especially if your heels start complaining during or after a workout session.
When this happens, use the RICE method:
- Kick your feet up and give your body time to recover.
- Apply ice to the area in pain, using a thin towel to protect your skin.
- Wrap the area in pain with a bandage or compression wrap, making sure that it’s not too tight.
- Keep your feet elevated above heart level for as long as possible.
Another great way to give your feet some much-needed rest is by cross-training. Try alternating between high-impact and low-impact exercises. So mix in a couple sessions of yoga, cycling, or swimming in your workout routine.
Wear the right shoes
One of the most important strategies for preventing overuse injuries is wearing the right pair of shoes when exercising.
Go for shoes that provide proper arch support and cushioning for the heel. The shoes you wear should never be too tight or too loose, and there should be plenty of room for your toes to wiggle freely in the toe box. Also, make sure to take into consideration the specific sport you will be participating in – shoes that are made for basketball are not the best shoes for runners, for example.
Don’t Wait to Get the Help You Need
If you have been experiencing heel pain that does not improve within 3-7 days, it’s time to come visit our office so we can determine if there’s an underlying condition that is keeping you from fully recovering.
And if you are afraid that you will no longer be able to stay active in your sport of choice, we can assure you that is often never the case. Together, we will work to find a balance between letting the injury heal through rest and maintaining stamina to perform well in the future.
Surgery is rarely ever needed to address overuse injuries, and we have many advanced treatment options that will help get you back on your feet as quickly and as safely as possible.
So don’t delay treatment! The sooner you get the proper treatment for your heel pain, the easier it will be to get rid of the problem once and for all.
Give our Waco Foot and Ankle office a call today at (254) 776-6995 to schedule an appointment, or fill out our online request form to have a member of our staff reach out to you.