Stretching to Manage and Prevent Heel Pain
Heel pain isn’t a condition, but rather a symptom of one. If you are experiencing heel pain, it’s important to make an appointment with our podiatrist. Then you can get the relief you need and get back to the physical activities you may be missing.
By “heel pain,” we’re not referring to minor aches that occur after a long day spent on your feet and soon subside. What we are referring to are chronic aches in one or both heels that are preventing you from going about your normal lifestyle. That kind of pain that, unfortunately, seems to be getting worse instead of getting better.
Believe it or not, heel pain is quite common; approximately one in four Americans will struggle with heel pain at some point in their lives. Some common causes of heel pain include injury, obesity, and improper footwear. It’s also possible that you have an underlying condition such as plantar fasciitis, bursitis, or heel spurs.
You may be wondering what, if anything, you can do to lessen your heel pain and prevent it from worsening. Or perhaps you’re just curious about what you can do to prevent yourself from experiencing heel pain in the first place.
At Kalamazoo Podiatry, we recommend wearing quality walking shoes as often as possible. Your footwear should fit comfortably, supply ample cushioning, and give your arches plenty of support. (For the athletes who are reading this, we encourage you to select footwear that’s tailored to the specific sport you play. Check out our blog, “Tips for Finding the Perfect Shoes for Your Sport,” for more information on this subject.)
Another effective way to manage your heel pain is by performing heel pain stretches. A consistent stretching routine can work wonders when it comes to keeping your musculoskeletal system strong, healthy, and flexible.
The Value of a Consistent Stretching Routine
Your heels bear a lot of weight and pressure every single day, and you consistently rely on them to perform movements such as walking, running, and jumping. It’s amazing how sturdy your heels are, and how all the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints work in concert to keep you moving.
Your heel structure is formed by a bone called the heel bone, or calcaneus. This bone is connected to your all-powerful calf muscle, which is connected to ligaments and tendons such as the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia. Both of these can wear down over time and are quite susceptible to injury.
Any physical activity, whether strenuous or non-strenuous, can cause tightness, stiffness, and inflammation in and around your heels. By adopting a stretching routine, you can do your heels a big favor in terms of keeping them limber and more resistant to damage, which should result in a noticeable decline in your pain.
Stretches We Recommend
We recommend the following stretches, all of which can help lessen or prevent heel pain:
- Calf Stretches: As mentioned above, your heel and calf are connected, which means that calf stretches are helpful for stretching your heels. Here’s an easy calf stretch: face a wall and stand approximately an arm’s length away from it. Step back with one foot, keeping your knee straight and your heel on the ground. (The knee in your front leg will have to bend.) Hold this stretch for 15-20 seconds, and perform three sets in total before switching sides. You should definitely feel this stretch along the length of your calf.
- Toe Stretches: Your toes are located opposite your heels, but it’s just as important to stretch them, too. Try this: sit in a chair and extend one leg in front of you, keeping your heel on the ground while your toes point skyward. Reach down, grab your big toe with your hand, and pull your toes back toward you. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds, and perform three sets in total before switching sides. By the way, this is a fantastic stretch for those with plantar fasciitis.
- Towel Stretches: Towels can come in handy when it comes to stretching out your heels. A resistance band works well, too, if you have one. A towel stretch that really seems to help people with heel pain involves sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you and your knees straight. Wrap a rolled towel under the ball of one of your feet, grab the ends of the towel, and gently pull back toward yourself. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds, and perform three sets in total before switching sides.
- Arch Massage: Arch massages are easy to perform; all you need is a tennis ball, foam roller, water bottle (even better, use a frozen water bottle!), or another object that will roll back and forth smoothly and easily, like a rolling pin. Sit in a chair, and position said object underneath your feet. Slowly roll your foot back and forth, covering the length of your entire arch. Continue this arch massage for approximately one minute before switching feet. You can also stand if you can balance yourself to apply a bit more pressure to the massage. Many patients appreciate how a frozen water bottle feels on their feet, and how the ice works to reduce inflammation.
- Night Splint: There are many night splints on the market today that you can wear to bed. The goal of a night splint is to allow your heel to lightly stretch throughout the night by keeping your feet in a specific position.
An Ideal Time To Stretch
You may be wondering if there’s a certain time of day most suitable for stretching. This is a great question and one that we’re certainly happy to answer.
The simple and straightforward answer is that you should stretch as often as you feel the need to, but we encourage you to plan to stretch a few times a day. Try to stretch in the morning, before you exercise, before you stand on your feet for an extended period of time, and before you go to bed.
Also, we want to remind you that stretching may feel slightly uncomfortable, but a stretch should never be painful. Listen to your body at all times, especially because you don’t want to pull a muscle or cause further injury. Should you experience distress while stretching, stop immediately and contact Kalamazoo Podiatry.
If you’ve been stretching regularly and have been wearing carefully selected footwear, yet you are still experiencing heel pain, it’s probably time to be seen by our podiatrist—the sooner the better.
Once Dr. Bredeweg performs a thorough evaluation, he will create a customized care plan that addresses your heel pain and the underlying condition that’s causing it. The good news is that most heel pain issues can be resolved using conservative measures, and at Kalamazoo Podiatry, we’re proud to offer a variety of advanced treatment options, such as custom orthotics, MLS laser therapy, and Remy laser therapy, all of which have been proven to provide fantastic results.
Schedule Your Appointment Today
Remember, your feet shouldn’t hurt. It’s not normal to go about your day experiencing pain in your heels. If you have heel pain, please contact us at your earliest convenience. While the stretches we provided above may relieve your heel pain and prevent it from gradually getting worse, it’s best to find out what’s causing the pain in the first place.
Contact us today by calling our Kalamazoo office at 269-373-1019 or our Allegan office at 269- 673-8757. You may also elect to fill out the contact form on our website. We are confident that we can help get you back to the pain-free lifestyle you deserve.
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