How to Reduce Heel Pain While Exercising

by | Mar 24, 2021

Experiencing heel pain during or after exercise can be very discouraging. Being active is good for you, and anything that interferes with your ambitions can feel like a major setback.

However, heel pain is not something you should ever try to ignore or push through. If you are experiencing regular heel pain episodes of any sort – whether during activity or not – it is a sign of a problem that should be properly addressed. Failure to do so can lead to more severe and chronic complications in the future.

Please contact us for an appointment if heel pain is interfering with your daily life. We can provide direct diagnosis and effective treatment to keep you comfortable on your feet. 

Additionally, you should be taking specific actions right now to help reduce the heel pain you are experiencing or even prevent it from recurring. The tips provided here are a good place to start.

Keep in mind, though, that not all of these strategies may be effective for your circumstances, largely depending on what exactly is causing your pain. Only by directly addressing the source of your problem can the best results be achieved. That said, knowing the steps you have already taken to try to relieve your heel pain (and whether they did or didn’t have an effect) can still provide us with valuable clues about your condition.

Review Your Footwear

The shoes you use during exercise should primarily have three qualities:

  • They are made for your activities (e.g. running shoes for running, tennis shoes for tennis, etc.).
  • They provide support for your heel and arch.
  • They properly fit your feet.

Shoes that are not properly designed for your activities may not provide enough cushioning and support for the forces you are exerting on your feet, which can easily lead to sports injuries and pain. If your shoes are worn out, their supportive qualities will be greatly diminished no matter what kind they are.

If you believe you need a new pair of shoes, please feel free to consult with us. We offer a full line of orthopedic and diabetic shoes for active patients who enjoy walking and running, and can help you choose shoes that best fit your needs.

woman jogging on a leaves covered path with a focus on her foot in the air

Review Your Workouts

Many injuries that cause heel pain are the result of overuse. Our bodies are conditioned to endure certain amounts of stress at any time. While training helps us increase this durability, going “too hard, too fast” can overwhelm our bodies and lead to painful problems such as Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures, and plantar fasciitis.

Overuse can occur both as a result of:

  • Trying to go all out during activities, such as breaking out into a dead sprint without warming up.
  • Enduring consistent, repetitive impacts without providing your body enough “off time” to rest, such as long-distance running daily with no rest days.

If you feel overuse may be a factor, dial back your intensity levels. And whenever you start any new activity, always begin at a low level and gradually increase the challenge to allow your body to acclimate. A good benchmark for increasing intensity is about 10% per week (in terms of time, distance, or weight). 

Whenever an intensity increase feels like more than you can reasonably handle at the time, do not hesitate to reduce it again. Also, do not neglect to add rest days and cross-training days into your schedule. It is always better to reach your goals gradually than to be greatly delayed by an injury.

Incorporate Stretching Into Your Day

While stretching and some light movement should certainly be part of any pre-exercise ritual, adding stretches focusing on your feet, Achilles tendons, and calf muscles to any time of your day can help relieve and prevent heel pain.

Many exercises can be easily performed within the home. A few examples you might wish to consider include:

  • Calf Stretching – Stand with your palms flat against a wall, held at about chest level. Take a step back several inches with one foot, keeping that knee straight. Bend your other knee to lean in toward the wall without lifting your heels. Hold for about 30 seconds, relax, then repeat with your other leg extended back.
  • Towel Stretching – Sit with your feet straight in front of you (can be on a bed or in a chair). Loop a rolled up towel, a belt, a resistance band, or other suitable strap against the ball of one foot. Gently pull back on the strap to flex the top of the foot backward. Hold for 30 seconds, relax, and repeat several times for each foot.
  • Frozen Bottle Roll – Fill up a water bottle about 80% of the way, cap it, and let it chill in your freezer. When frozen, roll the bottle beneath each foot firmly, massaging the underside of each foot. This technique is great for both relieving and avoiding pain, but be sure not to perform it near anything you wouldn’t want to get wet (such as electrical cables), just in case the bottle leaks. Additionally, do not apply ice for more than 15 minutes at a time, as prolonged exposure can begin to increase rather than decrease inflammation.

There may be certain exercises that best meet the needs of your condition. We can help you build a plan that works for you.

Try an Over the Counter Arch Support

When they are necessary, a good pair of OTC arch supports can provide helpful cushioning and relief for your feet during activities. 

Brands we recommend trying include Superfeet, Prostep, and SOLE (this last option tends to better accommodate feet with high arches).

Discontinue use of any arch support you are trying if it causes you greater discomfort or pain. 

Find Lasting Relief from Heel Pain

If taking some of the above measures eliminates your heel pain for good, that’s great! If you are still experiencing heel pain of any sort, however, please schedule an appointment with us for a professional evaluation of the problem.

The trusted team at Midwest Podiatry Centers can not only determine the exact causes of your heel pain, but can also recommend and prescribe effective treatment you will not find at home or OTC – including custom orthotics, laser therapy, and other advanced procedures.

Schedule an appointment with our expert doctors at any of our area offices by calling (612) 788-8778