4 Tips for Heel Pain Prevention
Unfortunately, the time machine has not yet been created as a usable means of heel pain prevention.
We can’t go back in time and undo the factors that lead to chronic aching heels for our patients. We can only treat the problem as it exists in the present – quite effectively, we might add!
However, there is plenty of benefit in knowing how to lower your risk of future heel pain, whether you currently suffer from some or not. There are two simple reasons for this:
- The better understanding you have of what causes heel pain, the better you may understand how yours happened (or could have happened).
- If you currently have heel pain, that doesn’t mean you’re immune to having more! Making good all-around choices can help prevent other forms of heel pain from developing.
While some of the heel pain prevention advice below could have a notable impact on reducing current cases of heel pain, your best option for effective care is still receiving a professional evaluation and treatment.
Heel pain cases are not created equal, and not all of the advice below may have the same effects for different causes. We can determine the sources of your heel pain much more quickly and treat them much more directly, so do not hesitate to contact us for an appointment!
But if you want to provide your heels some preventative support as well, keep these tips in mind.
Wear the Right Footwear
It’s a fundamental rule: supportive, properly fitting shoes can greatly decrease the strain on feet and ankles, which will help reduce your chances of heel pain. But what should you be looking for?
First, consider arch support. Plantar fasciitis is a very common cause of heel pain, and that concerns a thick band of tissue that runs right through the arch. When it becomes overstrained and aggravated, heel pain is often the first thing you feel when your feet hit the floor in the morning! Good, stable arch support will help your plantar fascia through the day.
Next, check the heel base. It should be accommodating and shock absorbing, but not allow the heel to slide all over the place.
Finally, consider heel height. Feet are most comfortable with heels that are slightly raised, no more than 2 inches. If you are spending much of your time in flat, unsupportive footwear like sandals or ballet flats, that can put a lot of stress on your plantar fascia and Achilles tendon, and either one can start to complain.
When exercising or playing sports, your shoes should also be well designed for the activity. Shoes for walking, running, tennis, basketball, etc. are not a gimmick to make you buy more shoes. Each sport-specific shoe incorporates design factors to support your feet for the demands of that particular activity. An associate at a sporting goods or specialty store can help you find the best shoes for what you do and how you move while you do it.
Keep that Footwear Support Going
Here is something we and other podiatrists have been discovering during this time when more and more people are staying at home: a lack of shoe-wearing leading to heel pain!
If you were spending most of your workdays in supportive footwear, staying at home now likely means you’re not taking advantage of that support anymore. For some, that can lead to heel pain.
If you’re staying at home and your heels are starting to bother you, consider wearing your shoes around the house for at least a few hours each day (after cleaning them, of course). It might make a difference.
Warm Up Before Physical Activity
Many heel pain problems can stem from overuse injuries. This is when the body is made to endure more stresses or forces than it can realistically endure, either all at once or through the cumulation of repetitive impacts over time.
Warming up helps prevent that first type of overuse injury by preparing your body for the paces it’s about to be put through. If you take off into a run without preparing, you are much more likely to strain your plantar fascia or Achilles (or other tissues connected to the heel) than you would if you had first warmed up.
Focus on “dynamic” types of stretching, which incorporate more overall motion than the “hold yourself extended in position” type of stretching most people think of (aka static stretching).
Examples of dynamic stretching include light jogging, lunges, and knee-ups. Reserve static stretching for a cool-down after exercise, when you can help your body adjust back to a more restful mode.
Pace Your Activity Levels
When we exercise, we are essentially breaking our bodies down on a cellular level. By challenging ourselves but not pushing too hard, our bodies can then rebuild stronger during a period of rest. That’s what working out is in a nutshell!
Pushing too hard, of course, can cause injury. But so can going for too long without a rest period. Your rate of breakdown can overtake your rate of recovery, leading to increased weakness and eventual injuries such as stress fractures.
No athlete worth their mettle neglects rest days from their routines, nor do they increase their weekly intensity by more than 15 percent time, distance, or weight per week. And even if it isn’t on your current schedule, always rest when your body is feeling tired, weak, or overworked. You need it.
Take Personal Steps Toward Heel Pain Prevention
While general tips such as those above are good, there are other causes of heel pain that can be more difficult to deal with. Abnormalities in gait and foot structure are a couple of examples.
When those conditions are in play, however, we can respond with helpful treatments such as custom orthotics in order to provide the specific cushioning and corrective support you need. That way, we can help your heel pain and prevent the condition from sparking future problems.
Don’t delay if heel pain has been a persistent problem. Call our office at (262) 544-0700 to schedule a time to see us. We are taking both in-office appointments as well as telemedicine appointments if you prefer to consult with us remotely.