Heel Pain and Exercise

by | Jan 14, 2013 | Heel Pain

Are you an athlete? Do you enjoy regular physical activity? Do you have heel pain? You may have a condition known as plantar fasciitis. The plantar ligament is found on the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel bone (or calcaneus) to your toes. A common analogy is to think of this ligament as a ‘rubber band’ present on the bottom of your foot. With movement of your foot during exercise or physical activity, the plantar fascia ligament contracts and relaxes. If overworked, the plantar ligament may become cause pain because of the inflammation.

Your foot absorbs a great deal of weight and pressure with normal activities such as walking. Activities such asrunning can result in forces 2 to 3 times body weight on each foot. This overload of force placed on the foot may result in plantar fasciitis or other disorders such as tendonitis and stress fractures. Plantar fasciitis can potentially occur in a number of different sports, which includes but is not limited to: basketball, baseball, volleyball, or football. Repetitive movements place continual stress on your feet, thus potentially causing symptoms. Athletes who engage in sports activities where running and jumping are common are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis. Furthermore, the excessive stress placed on your foot can potentially cause a tear and inflammation in the plantar ligament, resulting in chronic or lingering pain.

It is estimated that about 15% of all adult foot complications involve plantar fasciitis, so rest assured you are not alone. Many famous athletes have even succumbed to this painful condition, including Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, Scott Podsednik of the Toronto Blue Jays, and Eli Manning of the New York Giants.

Participating in physical activities and ‘overdoing it’ is a common trend seen in people who develop plantar fasciitis. If you are a moderate exerciser, plantar fasciitis can also be caused by beginning a new exercise regimen that your body is not used to. Overexerting yourself with an increased level of exercise can place significant strain on the plantar ligament which leads to both heel and foot pain. If you believe you have plantar fasciitis, it is vital to see a podiatrist in order to evaluate your heel pain and confirm the diagnosis.  

Treatment options:

  1. Receive custom made orthotics from your podiatrist for proper arch support, which reduces strain, and subsequently symptoms, on the plantar fascia.
  2. Perform calf and arch stretches throughout the day, especially in the morning before getting out of bed.  You podiatrist may also prescribe you a night splint to help passively stretch the aforementioned structures.
  3. Do not engage in physical activities or exercise until the pain subsides.  Or, shift to lower impact activities such as a stationary bike or swimming. 
  4. Rest and apply ice to the heel/arch of your foot.
  5. Also, take Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve the pain 

Heel and arch pain can be frustrating conditions which limit one’s ability to exercise or just engage in typical day-to-day activities.  The longer this condition is left untreated, the longer one may expect to eradicate the pain once treatment is initiated.  Fortunately, this is a completely treatable condition that rarely requires surgery, so see a podiatrist if the symptoms persist.  Conquer your heel pain and get back in the game!

Still have questions about heel pain while exercising? Dr. Gregg Neibauer can help! Contact Alpine Foot and Ankle clinic via our website or by calling (406) 721-4007 or toll free (877) 721-FEET. We can’t wait to help you get back on your feet!

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