Do you feel a sharp, stabbing pain in your heel every morning? Is it worst right when you get out of bed? You may have plantar fasciitis, a common cause of heel pain that develops when the thick connective tissue at the back of your heel becomes inflamed.
As a podiatrist, this is one of the most common (and painful!) conditions that I treat. People will do practically anything to get rid of that awful, nagging pain. Want some good news? Many treatments are easy, minimally invasive--and effective. Want some bad news? Some supposedly miracle treatments are a little to experimental, and should be avoided at all costs. Read on to learn more.
Getting Stung by a Bee to Cure Heel Pain
Yes, you read that heading correctly. Bee and hornet venom contains anti-inflammatory properties, so some people are crazy enough to step on bees in order to cool off their heel pain.
Does it work? Apparently. Will the stings hurt just as much (if not more) than your existing problem? Most likely! So, would I recommend exposing yourself to a bunch of bees when your heel hurt? Absolutely not!
Research is being done with hornet venom to see if it can help with foot problems like plantar fasciitis. So, I'm all for whatever products come out of that scientifically-backed approach. But if you want some relief from heel pain and are hoping not to walk through a wall of bees, read on for much easier solutions.
Five Steps to Beating Heel Pain
Want to keep that pain away? See your podiatrist for help and follow these five simple steps:
1) Stretch Those Legs
This step applies especially for runners, but should be followed by anyone with heel pain—make sure you stretch your legs after walking, running, sitting or even taking a leisurely jog. Focus on your hamstrings, calves and thighs to reduce tightness, as tension anywhere in your legs will put extra pressure on your tendon, every time you move.
2) Check Your Footwear
When dealing with heel pain, opt for shoes with lots of support in the heels and arches. You should also stay away from high heels as much as possible when dealing with plantar fasciitis—any heels, especially tall, point ones, will place extra strain on your tendons. If skipping heels is simply not an option, then at least minimize the time you spend in those heels, and limit the height to under three inches. Switch to more supportive shoes at every opportunity. And never walk barefoot when your heel pain is acting up.
3) Watch Where You Run
Since heel pain is a common symptom for runners, it stands to reason that runners must take steps to avoid plantar fasciitis. One easy way to do so? Avoid street and sidewalk running. Instead, try to train on soft, even surfaces like a dirt trail or groomed path.
By running on softer surfaces, you can reduce the impact on your feet each time you hit the ground. That means less stress (and less inflammation) for your tendon, which should also add up to less heel pain!
4) Press Pause on the Workouts
Rest days and recovery periods are crucial elements of any training program. Building a rest day into your routine can help prevent heel pain, but if you are already experiencing plantar fasciitis symptoms, a day may not be enough recovery time. When symptoms are present, you should stop working out until the pain resolves. And while you’re skipping the gym, hit your podiatrist’s office to get fitted for custom orthotics—they can help take some pressure off your tendon when you are able to resume your workouts.
5) Become a Weight Warrior
Carrying extra weight puts pressure on your feet, heels, arch and—yes—your plantar fascia. The closer you are to your optimal weight, the less undue pressure you will place on your lower extremities. So, if heel pain is a chronic problem for you, dropping weight may be part of the solution—along with the other options we’ve suggested in this post!