3 Proactive Tips to Fight Heel Pain This Summer

Dr. Corey Fox
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Director of Massapequa Podiatry Associates

For many people, summer often instills a desire to get outside and get more active. And this year, that desire may be stronger than ever!

To that we say: awesome! We want our patients to get the most out of their summers – and that means not letting stubborn heel pain get in the way.

There are several common steps anyone can take to reduce their risk of heel pain-causing problems, as well as a few things those living with heel pain now can do to help make the problem more manageable. 

But if you have already been dealing with heel pain for some time, the best thing you can do for your summer is to come see us for proper diagnosis and treatment! The sooner you directly address the cause(s) of the problem, the sooner we can put you on a path toward an effective solution. Remember that most cases of heel pain can be treated within just a few months using non-surgical methods!

With that said, let’s get to the tips!

prevent heel pain

Choose the Right Footwear

We know that flip-flops are a sign of the season for many folks, but anyone wanting to reduce their risk of heel pain should avoid them for anything more than a quick trip between their beach towel and the water.

Flat flip-flops are terrible at supporting your arches, and their lack of shock-absorption leave you more exposed to the forces of repetitive impacts as you walk. They also don’t tend to be very stable, and you generally need to clench your toes (at least subconsciously) to help hold them in place.

The factors combine to a higher risk of heel pain, particularly from plantar fasciitis. As we noted earlier, using them for a few minutes around the pool or back and forth on the beach likely won’t cause much harm. Spending all day walking around in them, though? Absolutely not.

Sandals can be a better alternative, but not every pair is well-suited to minimize the risk of heel pain. Good qualities to look for include:

  • Arch support
  • Thick and cushioned soles
  • Some flexibility in the midsole
  • A slightly higher heel than toe (i.e. not being completely flat)
  • A deep heel cup and straps that help keep the foot in a proper position as you move

We tend to recommend Hokas and Altra for sandals, but remember that support can vary from model to model. Wear what feels best for your feet and needs – and don’t use sandals for sports or hiking! Wear shoes that are made for the game, and also…

Warm Up Before Intense Activity

Taking a few minutes to warm up before a game, run, or any other big activity can help reduce the risk of a variety of sports injuries throughout the body – and that includes causes of heel pain such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and stress fractures.

Stretching that targets the heels, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles can be helpful, as tightness in these areas can increase stress and increase the chances of strain. Heel raises, lunges, and some light jogging can all be part of a good warm-up routine. Don’t hesitate to ask us if you want recommendations custom-tailored to your specific needs!

Ease Into New Athletic Pursuits

If you’re taking this summer as your prime opportunity to start hitting the gym or get into a new sport, that’s awesome! You’ve got our full backing!

But that said, we’ve seen our share of patients who were gung-ho about a new activity only to get sidelined with heel pain or another type of foot or ankle injury shortly thereafter. We want you to be able to enjoy yourself without that happening to you.

For many of these patients, it was a matter of going “too hard, too soon.” They charged headfirst into an activity at an intensity level or duration their feet weren’t fully conditioned to handle yet, and it caused an overuse injury.

Stress fractures are a good example of how this can happen. Repetitive impacts – especially from running – can start to break down bone on a cellular level. This is perfectly normal; when we rest, our body recovers and builds back stronger. But if you don’t provide enough time for this recovery, the weakening outpaces the rebuilding, and eventually the surface of the bone can crack.

It’s always wise to consult with your physician or another expert before starting a new exercise program, but we know not everyone is going to do that. At the very least, go into a new activity at low intensity, then gradually build that up no more than 10-15% per week. You can measure this in increased distance, increased time, or increased weight.

And if it feels like too much for you at any given point and you’re feeling strained or fatigued, do not hesitate to dial the intensity back. All improvement, no matter the pace, is good. Trying to do too much and leaving yourself with pain or injury is bad.

Do Not Sit Back on Addressing Your Heel Pain

If heel pain is currently something you’re dealing with, remember: the above measures might help you, but they also might not have as much of an effect as you hope. That’s because there are multiple potential causes for heel pain, and different approaches necessary to find the relief you need.

We’re heel pain experts, and we can help you get to the source of your problem – as we have for many, many patients before you. But putting off getting help for your heel pain only increases the risk of it becoming a more severe or longer-lasting problem.

Call our Massapequa office at (516) 541-9000 to schedule an appointment with us, or use our online contact form if you prefer to reach out to us electronically. We’ll help you get the most out of your summer with the least discomfort.
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