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Best Foot Forward

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Follow these steps to reduce heel pain.

FoothealthHeel pain is something most often experienced by serious runners, but, even if you’re not logging a marathon number of miles, you can still suffer from what is known as plantar fasciitis (the tearing of a ligament that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes). The tearing causes inflammation and pain, and is commonly the result of running or walking in a worn-out pair of shoes — though training on a new surface or inclines can also be to blame. At the first sign of heel or arch pain, physicians recommend following these guidelines:

1. Rest
No more running or walking, no treadmill and no StairMaster. Instead, consider biking, swimming, yoga (avoid downward dog) or weightlifting (avoid squats and calf exercises).

2. Ice
Roll an ice pack or frozen water bottle along your arch for 10 to 20 minutes each evening.

3. Stretch
Before you get out of bed in the morning, stretch your calf using a belt or a towel for 30 seconds to one minute. Complete the runner’s stretch, placing both hands against a wall for support and extending one leg behind you, keeping that heel on the ground, and lean forward slightly to stretch your hamstrings and calves for 30 to 60 seconds throughout the day.

4. Wear Proper Footwear
Avoid going barefoot; instead, opt for shoes that are rigid and bend only where your foot bends — at the toes. Check your shoes by turning them upside down and grabbing the toe and the heel to bend them. If they fold in the middle, throw them away. Avoid “lightweight” shoes, which can compromise the stability.

5. Check Shoes Often
Test your shoes regularly for stability and signs of excessive wear and tear, especially in the heel.

6. Watch the Roads
It is best to run on soft, even surfaces. Running or walking on sloped concrete increases the chance of injury. If training, be sure to add mileage gradually.

7. Seek Special Shoes
If you have flat feet, you might benefit from a pair of sport orthotics (available at most sporting goods stores).

Contact a podiatrist — who may recommend treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications, night splints, steroid injections, custom orthotics or surgery — if heel pain does not resolve or subside in two weeks.