There are many conditions that can lead to heel pain. A common cause is Achilles tendinitis. This overuse injury is often found in people who are physically active, particularly with running. However, it can be found in almost anyone of any age. It’s important to protect yourself and your feet so you don’t end up with this very preventable foot condition.
What is Achilles Tendinitis?
This inflammation of the tendon behind your ankle is usually caused by repetitive motion to the area, or because of excessive stress on the heel cord. The Achilles tendon is often affected because our feet bear the strain of our entire bodies. People who are physically active with running or jumping are putting even more pressure on the Achilles.
The condition will often start out as a dull ache that occurs after physical activity. Some stiffness and tenderness may also accompany your pain. Many people think this is something they can “push through” and it will go away. Unfortunately they often end up doing more harm than good with this theory. Over time the pain behind your heel will get worse and can even be present during times of rest.
How Can I Treat My Sore Heels?
Treatment usually starts out conservatively. The best thing you can do for your foot is to rest it to allow the tissue time to heal. While you are resting your foot you can also do things like icing the affected area and elevating your foot to help with swelling and discomfort.
There are also certain stretches you can try to help loosen the calf muscles, which helps to reduce the stress that is being put on your Achilles tendon. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy, too, to strengthen the muscles.
You should also take a look at your footwear. Make sure you are choosing shoes that are supportive with cushioning in the back. If necessary you can even add in a custom orthotic. If your pain gets more severe you may end up needing extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT). This type of treatment pinpoints the damaged tissue and promotes healing, while leaving the healthy tissue completely intact. If none of these non-invasive measures work you can always consider getting surgery.
Preventing Future Inflammation
Fortunately, preventing Achilles tendinitis is fairly easy if you take the time to really care for yourself. Overuse injuries are often the result of increasing the intensity of an exercise program too quickly, without giving your body time to get used to the new strain it’s experiencing. Remember to always gradually increase your regimen.
Also important is to stretch before and after a workout. Pre-workout stretching should be dynamic and should involve many muscle groups at once, while post-workout should focus on loosening your muscles. If you neglect to do this you could end up with a lot of pain.
Remember that the shoes you choose to wear have everything to do with how comfortable your feet are. Make sure you pick shoes that offer support and cushioning where needed.
Lastly, give your feet a break every now and then. If you are normally a runner, you might want to consider cross training with swimming or yoga. Our feet bear the full weight of our bodies every single day and they need a rest once in a while.