Why Do I Have Heel Pain When Running?

Around spring time, a lot of our patients start to transition from walking or running on a treadmill, to increasing their activity outside. This is an exciting time for all of us to be able to enjoy the great outdoors and the sun staying out for longer. However, this transition can cause setbacks when you experience pain or injury. This is why we start seeing a lot more ankle and foot related issues when the weather starts to get nice as we say goodbye to winter. So, it is more likely for you to be outside, being active.  One of the reasons for pain while running is the change in the surface that you are running on. Running on a trail or on a track tends to offer more shock absorption than running on a concrete pavement. Shock absorption is when your feet absorb the brunch of the impact forces you sustain during movement. Meaning, when you are running your feet are hitting these forces that are rougher than a treadmill. You may notice less soreness in the ankles and less heel pain when running on certain surfaces. But if you are a runner who loves being outside, running on a track, and even hiking; then you need to know how to take care of your feet! Heel pain can be caused by a few different injuries but is most often caused by a condition called plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is when the ligament along the bottom of the foot, the plantar fascia becomes inflamed. This ligament is primarily responsible for supporting the foot. The plantar fascia runs all the way from the ball of the foot to the heel bone.

Heel Pain in Runners is Different

For runners this condition can be much more serious than an average person. Many people suffer from heel pain, but runners put excess strain and pressure, and stress on an already inflamed ligament. Once the ligament is stressed to capacity, the tendon will begin to tear off the bone. Bleeding and scar tissue will occur in the heel as the foot tries to mend itself. 

Heel Pain Image

Treating Heel Pain is Mostly a Pain Free Experience Requiring Conservative Treatment

A podiatrist will likely recommend orthotics. Orthotics are shoe inserts that will support the foot as well as the healing ligament. In addition, proper shoes are a MUST! Runners, like all other athletes need to have proper, functioning equipment...namely good running shoes.

Other treatment will include physical therapy, stretching techniques, rest and icing and possible injections. Our office also offer conservative measures such as Cryotherapy, Shock Wave Therapy, and Laser. These are great options for athletes and runners because they are minimally invasive and require little to no down time. Our doctors will create a treatment plan based on the patient's individual needs and lifestyle.

For those with severe damage, although rare, may require surgery. Runners with heel pain need to take their injury seriously, without proper treatment the condition will get worse requiring more serious treatment. 

How to Help Your Feet While Running

Changing the shoes is an important part of keeping the feet healthy. A podiatry-recommended shoe tends to have sturdy support around the back of your heel, appropriate arch support, and adequate tread that has not worn down from overuse. You can always bring in your shoes for a podiatrist to evaluate for you! In our office we have a recommended shoe list that we would be more than happy to take the time to review with you. 


In addition, with increased exercise and muscle strengthening, you must also increase your stretching. Stretching will keep the body in balance. For example, tight calves can lead to an imbalance in your heel bone and can cause pain and inflammation to the bottom of your heel overtime. There are many ways to stretch but your podiatrist can review with you the most effective stretching exercises for the feet, ankles and legs. 


Lastly, if you have recently been diagnosed with an injury or have recovered from an injury, I recommend that you get clearance from your physician and wear any additional support for your feet and ankles that was provided to you by your Doctor.


How to Help Your Feet While Running


  1. Run on even ground and materials that have shock absorption
  2. Wear appropriate shoes
  3. Stretch well
  4. Wear appropriate support if needed (ankle brace, compression sleeve, orthotics)


If you have any further questions or if you need any of the materials that were discussed above, please do not hesitate to call us at our Hillsborough location,  908-874-8030 which is located at 812 Courtyard drive, Hillsborough, NJ 08844. We are commited to helping you explore all options until we find the right treatment for you. We have late evenings and saturday hours for your convenience. 

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