Can foot pain be fixed so you can run again?
So you've hurt your heel and it's put back your training.
You don't want to damage yourself so you stop running all together. Who wants to end up in surgery, right?
Paying proper attention to these areas takes time, and if you're busy (like, er, the entire population) you can often ignore the symptoms. The solution ends up being that you just stop exercising, but we all know where that can lead: being overweight, feeling sluggish, losing energy and more detrimentally, the possibility of diseases like diabetes.
PROBLEM: MY HEEL HURTS WHEN I WALK ON IT
If it feels like a stone bruise under your heel, it may be plantar fasciitis – inflammation of the plantar fascia which is a ligament structure in the sole of the foot.
"It's often referred to as heel spurs," says sports podiatrist Karl Lockett from Sydney Heel Pain.
"It commonly causes heel pain and can be brought on by tightness in the calf muscle or a sudden increase in the level of activity – going too hard too soon."
He also cites flexible footwear which is not supportive enough as "keeping podiatrists in business. Some people can get away with it but for others it causes problems".
Plantar fasciitis can be treated with calf stretches and exercises, and better fitting shoes – addressing whatever has caused the problem in the first place.
"In order to get a quick recovery, it's important to unload the strain on the fascia," says Lockett, "you can physically unload it by strapping the foot or orthotics. If it's bad, you'll need a moon boot. It can take between six and 12 weeks to get better."
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PROBLEM: IT HURTS RIGHT INSIDE MY ACHILLES TENDON
"My achilles was, well, killing me!" says Louise, 34. "I injured my calf when I started getting fit after having a baby, and then my achilles made it unbearable to walk on. It was a real downer because I was trying to do the right thing and exercise but I couldn't."
"That's the double whammy of foot pain," says Lockett, "if the body is suddenly thrown into exercise and you already have a tight calf muscle, you're going to injure yourself."
Tightness in the calves is usually the culprit with this condition which is sometimes visibly inflamed and can be sore to pinch. Incorrect running shoe can cause it, as can over-pronating (rolling in).
"An extra treatment for this is dry needling. Ice packs are also imperative," says Lockett.
Stretching is essential for a pain-free run. Photo: 123RF.com
THE CORRECT WAY TO RUN
Is there a "proper" way to run that won't cause injury or are we meant to walk/swim/cycle forever?
"Try to reduce the ground reaction force," says Lockett. "Strike the floor as soft as you can – avoid a big heavy heel strike.
"Shorten your stride slightly so that the whole pad of your foot strikes the ground – not the heel or forefoot. Do not run on your toes, this can cause forefoot problems and tight calves. It's also inefficient to bounce … the quickest way from A to B is a straight line!"
CAN I RUN THROUGH THE PAIN?
We've all been there. That niggling pain when you really want to work out so you just go for it, and deal with the consequences afterwards. Unfortunately, running through pain is not recommended.
"When in pain, listen to your body," says Lockett, "Rest, and if it persists, seek treatment. Untreated pain over time can lead to injury."
But what if you have a big event coming up and really, really want to do it?
"If you fancy yourself as an athlete and really want to run an event with some minor pain, then take precautions," advises Lockett.
"Ensure you stretch your leg muscles, hamstrings, quads, and calves sufficiently prior to running, and make sure your running technique is correct throughout. After running, use an icepack to reduce the inflammation, and apply again before bed."
TIPS FOR RUNNING PAIN-FREE
Make sure you buy the correct running shoes that support your foot type – a sports podiatrist like Lockett can actually prescribe shoes.
Stretch! Stretching is paramount.
Build up to greatness. Don't push your body too far in the first instance.