Heel Pain After Running: Causes, Treatment And 5 Helpful Preventive Tips

Have you ever felt pain in your heels especially after running? .This is common in many people and if it is not treated , can cause further complications and injury. Running is an exercise many people enjoy because it is inexpensive and convenient. You do not have to go to the gym, buy equipment or look for space. After running, many people experience pain especially on their heels. The pain is a sign that there is a problem somewhere and that there is need for medical checkup and treatment.


The heel is the largest bone in your foot and overusing it, reduced range of motion or injuring the bone can result to pain, although there are other factors that should be considered. Some of the factors that can cause heel pain after running are:

1. Achilles Tendonitis: This condition causes pain on the back of the ankle and heel after running. The Achilles tendon is a fibrous cord on the leg that connects the back of your calf muscles to your heel bone. When the tendon becomes inflamed or irritated especially the area that is attached at the back of the heel, it is called Achilles tendonitis. 

There are many factors that contribute to the development of this condition like being overweight or obessed, poor gait biomechanics and tight calf muscles that hinder the range of motion at the ankle joint. This condition apart from causing pain after running, it can also cause redness, lump on the tendon, swelling and soreness. 

2. Bursitis: The bursae are little fluid-filled sacs that sit between two neighboring muscles, tendons or bones. Their function in the body is to stop or reduce friction between these bones or muscles and also to allow the tendons to move smoothly over bony surfaces without any injury.

When there is too much and repetitive movement (or strain) to the bursae, there is pain or injury to the tissue found inside the bursae. One of the symptoms of this condition is the sharp pain associated with it. The pain can be intense at night and the affected area becomes too stiff by morning. There may be visible redness and swelling.

3. Plantar Fasciitis: This is the most common cause of heel pain after running. It is caused when the plantar fascia becomes inflamed and thickened due to irritation at the attachment point at the base of the heel.
Plantar fascia is the thick rubber-band like ligament that stretches from the heel to the front of the toe connecting them. One symptom of this condition is the pain felt directly under the ball of the heel mostly in the morning or after staying in one position when sitting, standing or resting The pain can be persistent or fades away after some time to be felt again. 

4. Heel Spurs: Heel spurs are commonly misunderstood by people to cause pain on the heels but most health practitioners believe the pain can be felt after running. A heel spur or bone spur is a bony growth that pokes out from the bottom of your heel, where your heel bone connects to the ligament running between your heel and the ball of your foot (Cleveland Clinic ,Ohio).

The pain you feel is because the tissues around the location of the heel spur are inflamed. Heel spurs can take many months to form but when there is pressure on the foot muscles, ligaments and/or tendons constantly, they take less time.

There are other causes, these factors do not necessarily cause heel pain after running but they cause heel pain generally which can increase after exercises. Some of these factors are:

  • Sever’s disease: This is one of the most common heel pain especially in children and young adults from 7 to 15 years. This condition is caused from overuse and repetitive microtrauma of the growth plates of the heel bone.
  • Haglund’s deformity: Wearing pumps and tight shoes can put more pressure on the back of the heel and this can cause irritation on the Haglund’s deformity. Haglund’s deformity is a bony enlargement on the back of the heel. It occurs when footwear rubs against the back of the heel, irritating the bony enlargement and surrounding tissue ( Medical News Today ). 
  • Stress fracture: Stressing the foot, doing manual work or strenuous exercising constantly will cause pain on the heel. Most runners experience stress fracture in the metatarsal bones of the foot and feel pain after running. 
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome: People with this condition feel pain because their tissue compresses the large nerve in the back of the foot. 
  • Sprains and strains: The sprain can be mild or severe depending on how intense the injury is. Not treating or recovering from the injury can cause pain if used for movement.


Heel pain can be treated at home especially if the pain is mild but it is advised you see your doctor if the pain persists. The doctor can diagnose the correct cause and recommend a treatment plan.
The treatment can be:

Shock wave therapy: Shock wave therapy is an invasive method of treatment that uses low energy acoustic wave pulsations to relieve pain by applying these waves through a person’s skin via a gel medium. Through this process, the brain is signaled to promote repair of these injured or inflamed tissues.

Surgery: If the cause of the heel pain is from plantar fasciitis and the pain persists, surgery may be recommended. A surgeon may detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone although there is a risk that this may weaken the arch of the foot.

Exercises: The physiotherapist or podiatrist can recommend some exercises or stretches that can help with the pain and treat the heel. The exercises can include:

Band-assisted ankle flexion: You sit on the floor and hold one leg in a straight position. Secure one end of a band to a sturdy object and the other to the top of the foot. Flex and extend at the ankle joint. You should do this routine on both feet.

Rolling stretch: Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Place a ball, or any other rollable object under the arch of the affected foot and roll it around. The ball should be rolled for 2 minutes.

Standing calf raise: Stand facing a wall, The foot that has the heel pain should be placed behind the other foot. Keep the front knee bent and the back leg straight, with the foot on the ground. Pull the hips forward toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the calf of the lower leg.


The following treatment methods can be useful for relieving the pain you fell. there are:

Ice packs: Placing an ice pack on the heel can be helpful. However, the ice pack should be kept on the affected area for 20 minutes a few times per day to avoid numbness.

Massages: Massaging the area can be used to bring relief. Acupuncture is also a good option.

Heel pads or orthotic inserts: Using wedges or lifts especially in your shoes can be helpful. You can also use custom orthotic device to improve stability and also to restore imbalances in the muscles. It can also prevent your foot from moving too much or incorrectly. Also wear footwear so as to avoid stressing your heels.

Removable walking cast or night splint: If the pain is intense, you can use walking cast to support your ankle and foot, this can be used for few weeks till your pain is gone or relieved. Night splints can also be used to hold the foot in the correct position and stretch it.


It is better to prevent the pain than having to deal with it. Preventing the heel pain is very important to avoid going through pain and other medical treatments. The following ways can help:

  • Stretch before and after running: Stretching can help you loosen your ankles and feet, you should at least stretch for 5 minutes before you run every time. Some stretching moves are calf stretches, foot and ankle stretches and others.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Buy new pair of running shoes especially if the ones you have are too tight or uncomfortable.
  • Use different running surfaces like grasses, dirt paths, or a synthetic track.
  • Change foot strike patterns


Heel pain is common especially in runners and other sport persons. It can be caused by many factors like Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and others. It is important that you see a doctor if the pain is intense and persist for a long time. But if mild, you can use homemade remedies to relieve the pain.
While treating the pain, you should stay away from running till you are completely okay.

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