Preventing Heel Pain

Preventing Heel Pain

Many things can slow down your times, but heel pain can definitely bring it to a stop. The most common form of heel pain in track & field athletes is known as plantar fasciitis (pronounced plan-tar fashee-eye-tiss). It occurs when the long, flat ligament on the bottom of the foot (plantar fascia) stretches irregularly and develops small tears that cause the ligament to become inflamed. The pain is described as being dull aching or sharp and can be reproduced by flexing the toes upwards (dorsiflexion) and tensing the fascia.

Although the fascia is invested with countless sturdy "cables" of connective tissue called collagen fibers, it is certainly not immune to injury. In fact, about 5 to 10 per cent of all athletic injuries are inflammations of the fascia, an incidence rate that would produce millions of cases of plantar fasciitis per year, just among runners and joggers. Track, field, tennis players, volleyball players, step-aerobics participants, and dancers are also prone to plantar problems, as are non-athletic people who spend a lot of time on their feet or suddenly become active after a long period of lethargy. A recent study found that over 50 per cent of people who suffer from plantar fasciitis are on their feet nearly all day

Risk Factors Include:

  • Biomechanical factors, such as decreased flexibility in the foot and ankle, imbalances in muscle strength (muscles in one leg or foot are weaker than the other), abnormal foot mechanics (when stepping down), and tightness in the Achilles tendon
  • The repetitive nature of sports activities and improper training
  • Rapidly increasing the number of miles run
  • Running on steep hills
  • Wearing track shoes that are worn out
  • Wearing track shoes that do not have a cushioned sole or enough arch support
  • Abruptly changing the intensity or duration of the running routine

The traditional remedies for plantar fasciitis include stretching the calf, massaging, decreasing one's training, losing weight, purchasing better-fitting shoes (with a raised heel and arch support), icing the sore heel, and taking ibuprofen. Another treatment option, also known as one of the easiest, is using heel seats in your shoes. Heel seats pick up and re-stretch the plantar fascia, redistribute the heels natural fat pad, provide structural reinforcement to the foot, and apply acupressure to relieve the pain while your feet heal.


Run The Planet thanks Jason Schultz for the permission to reprint the article "Track & Field runners and heel pain". Jason Schultz is the author of, and treatment specialist at Text © by Jason Schultz. Illustration © 2004 by Run The Planet.