5 Easy Tips and Stretches to Beat Heel Pain (and 1 crazy one to avoid!)

Do you feel a sharp, stabbing heel pain 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 Before recruiting this guy, come see me for help with 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 Heel pain is awful, but there are many ways your podiatrist can help you find relief.

This step applies especially for runners. But anyone with heel pain should follow this advice. 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.

Need some inspiration? Check out these three yoga-based heel stretches designed to fight heel pain. They're courtesy of Cross Fitter (and yoga instructor) Jenny Sugar (for PopSugar.) So you know they'll be right up your alley! 

Yoga Poses to Fight Heel Pain

Extended Wide Squat

This stretch opens both your hips at once as well as your lower back. Then, when you lean your torso forward, focus on pressing your heels down to stretch the backs of your ankles and the bottom of your calves.

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Bend your knees, and lower your hips down toward the ground. If your heels don't touch the ground, roll up a towel and place it under your heels for support.
  2. Bring your palms together at your heart center, and firmly press your elbows against the inside of your knees. This will help to open your hips even further.
  3. After five breaths, release the hands to the floor and walk them away from your feet to increase the stretch in the hips and lower back. Press the heels down and hold for another five breaths.

Runner's Lunge

This is a great stretch for releasing tension in your hip flexors, and you can also press the heel of your straight leg back to stretch one arch at a time.

  1. Starting in a plank position with the shoulders over the wrists, step your left foot forward to the outside of your left hand.
  2. Hold for five breaths, actively pressing the right heel back.
  3. Step the left foot back and repeat with the right knee bent for another five breaths.

Tip-Toe Three-Legged Dog

  1. From a plank position, lift your hips up, coming into the upside-down V position known as downward dog. Hold here for five breaths, pressing the heels toward the floor to stretch the calves.
  2. Step your feet together so the big toes are touching. Inhale to raise your left leg into the air, holding for five breaths.
  3. Then come into Tip-Toe Three-Legged Dog by lifting the right heel as high as you can to stretch the arch of the right foot, as you simultaneously circle the left foot in all directions (this feels so good!). Hold here for five breaths, keeping the shoulders parallel to the floor.
  4. Lower the left foot back to the floor and repeat Three-Legged Dog and Tip-Toe Three-Legged Dog on the right side.
  5. Lower the right foot and come back to Down Dog for another five breaths, trying to lower the heels even more, feeling a deeper stretch in the calves.

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

Heel pain is a common symptom for runners. So 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've already got plantar fasciitis symptoms, one day may not be enough. 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. There, you can get fitted for custom orthotics. They'll 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 pressure you put 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!

Still having heel pain? Contact Houston podiatrist Andrew Schneider for an immediate appointment. We'll address your pain directly and work together to solve your heel pain as quickly as possible. (Without bee stings, I promise!)  Don't wait for your heel pain to go away on its own...it probably won't!

 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.
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