For some people, their feet aren’t simply an appendage—they’re a tool used to hone a very important skill. Whether running track, competing in team sports, or playing with friends for fun, athletes value their feet as a crucial component of their body.
Which makes suffering from heel pain that much worse. Heel pain can keep an athlete down while they recoup, keeping them off the field and on the couch in some cases. That can be extremely frustrating for a person who loves to stay active both for work and play.
The good news is heel pain in athletes is often treatable and is a short term problem. Here are a few things to know about what causes heel pain:
1. Growth Spurts
Young athletes may experience pain around the heels and ankles due to growth spurts. This is a normal part of puberty and is sometimes referred to as calcaneal apophysitis or “Sever’s Disease.” It’s simply the forming of new bone to accommodate the growth plates and it can sometimes put pressure or strain on the tendons, causing discomfort and pain.
2. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is a condition caused by inflammation of tissue in the bottom of the foot, especially the heel. The good news is that plantar fasciitis is easily treatable with rest, stretching, and ice. In addition, a new study shows that a unique combination of essential oils formulated to penetrate to the fascia resulted in dramatic symptom improvement in most of the trial participants.
Sometimes, with chronic inflammation and irritation at the site where the fascia attaches to the heel bone, your body notices something is wrong in your foot and sends extra calcium to grow more bone to address it, creating a spur. Heel spurs are a result of plantar fasciitis and not the cause.
3. Repeated intense impact
High impact activities like running and jumping can cause irritation or sprain to the bottom of a young athlete’s feet. If you’re involved in track and field competitions, or you’re a serious marathon runner, you may experience heel pain as a side effect of intense and repeated impact.
If the pain persists, it may be best to see your doctor to address the issue.
4. Stress Fractures
Finally, if your foot or ankle begins to swell and you have continued or increased pain with weight bearing on the bottom of your foot, you may have a stress fracture. A stress fracture is when your bone fractures from repeated mechanical movement as opposed to a sudden break. High levels of athletic activity can sometimes lead to heel pain in the form of a stress fracture.
It’s important to seek advice and care from your doctor for a stress fracture as it can turn into something more serious if left untreated.
Regardless of your chosen sport or activity, it’s important to remember that your body needs rest—and that includes your feet. You wouldn’t drive a car for thousands of miles without taking a break and getting a tune up. In much the same vein, you should be resting and stretching your body regularly after intensive athletic activity.
Proper stretching, supportive sneakers and potentially supportive inserts are good ways to ensure that you keep your feet as healthy as the rest of you. It may even be good to go for a pedicure and a foot massage every once in awhile. After all, you only get one pair of feet—you may as well treat them right.