Walking or running on a treadmill is a wonderful alternative when outdoor conditions aren’t favorable—or safe! Unfortunately, many people experience heel pain while using a treadmill. At Massapequa Podiatry Associates in Long Island, we frequently treat patients relying on treadmills for exercise whose existing foot conditions have worsened or new ones have developed. In fact, heel pain is the most common painful foot condition we treat and we are proud to have a 95 percent success rate.

Fortunately, you don’t have to abandon your routine. Learn how to maintain both your mobility and proper foot health. 

Causes of Treadmill Heel Pain Heel pain after being on treadmill

One primary reason treadmill use might cause heel pain is because these machines alter your stride and increase the amount of repetitive movement, especially if you’re using the incline function or as a form of interval training.

Not everyone experiences foot problems using a treadmill, but here are some of the most common conditions we see in our office. 

Plantar Fasciitis

Some people have foot types and biomechanical issues that make them more inclined to develop this irritating cause of heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is the result of tears in the connective tissues (also known as fascia) that attach the heel bone to the toes and support the arch of the foot. Sometimes treadmill use increases pressure on the fascia.

Achilles Tendinitis

The Achilles is the largest tendon in the human body and it can be injured by overuse while running. Using a treadmill’s incline greatly increases the chances of developing Achilles tendinitis, resulting in:

  • Heel pain and stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Thickened tendon
  • Grating or crackling noise when the tendon moves

Stress Fractures

Overuse and repetitive activity can also lead to tiny cracks in the bone called stress fractures. If you’re not aware of this condition and don’t reduce activity, heel pain can be a challenge. Unlike a fully broken bone, which typically occurs as a result of a sudden trauma like a fall, automotive accident, or dropping something on the foot, stress fractures happen over time. Professional treatment is required to ensure they heal properly and don’t create ongoing issues with mobility.

Foot Sprains

A sprain is when you stretch or tear the ligaments that connect foot bones. Sprains create pain, swelling, and bruising. Some people might limp to avoid putting too much pressure on an area or if the condition doesn’t heal properly. 

Heel Spurs

These abnormal bone growths develop between the heel and the arch. They’re the result of the body trying to fix a problem. People with heel spurs experience pain, inflammation, and swelling toward the front of their heel.


Bursae are tiny, fluid-filled sacs that provide cushion between the bones. Repetitive motion, like excessive treadmill workouts, causes bursae to become inflamed.

Treating Heel Pain With RICE Therapy

At the first sign of heel pain, take steps to alleviate pain and swelling and reduce the risk of further injury. RICE therapy is the recommended first aid.

  • Rest. Stop participating in activities that aggravate the problem.
  • Ice. Applying ice for 20 minutes at a time, several times daily helps with inflammation.
  • Compression. Wrap the injured area to reduce swelling and support the foot.
  • Elevation. Keep your foot or ankle raised.

To further alleviate pain, you can also take over-the-counter pain relievers and massage the affected area. It may be particularly effective to freeze a mostly full water bottle and roll it beneath your feet. Be sure never to apply ice to bare skin, as this can damage tissue.

Symptoms Requiring Immediate Professional Care

Sometimes conditions can be treated at home, but it’s often best to seek out medical care. We want you to come into our Long Island Heel Pain clinic right away if you experience any of the following: 

  • Your symptoms don’t go away after RICE therapy and over-the-counter pain relievers are used for several days.
  • You have symptoms of Achilles tendonitis.
  • The pain continues even while you’re resting.
  • You’re experiencing numbness, fever, or tingling.
  • You have other medical conditions, such as diabetes or an infection.
  • You cannot bend your foot downward or stand on your toes.
  • Pain prevents you from doing your usual daily activities.

Preparing For Your Appointment

While waiting to see a podiatrist, it can be helpful if you take note of certain information that can make it easier for the doctor to quickly and accurately diagnose the cause of your pain. Here’s what you might record:  

  • How long have you been experiencing this pain?
  • When do your heels tend to hurt most? 
  • Is there a certain time of day or a certain activity that seems to trigger pain?
  • What activities are you doing each day aside from the treadmill?
  • What types of shoes do you usually wear?

How a Podiatrist Can Help

Sometimes the problem isn’t one that can or should be addressed at home. The skilled podiatrists in our office can:

  • Look at shoes you’ve worn a lot and examine the wear patterns on the tread to learn about how your walking and running pattern, as well as the shoe fit, could be contributing to your pain
  • Physically examine your feet to find signs of tenderness, swelling, bruising, and other issues.
  • Accurately diagnose the cause of your pain by learning about your medical history, family medical history, and recent traumatic events and utilizing medical diagnostic equipment
  • Develop a customized treatment plan to specifically address your needs.
  • Relieve pain before it gets worse.
  • Provide you with preventative care to avoid further complications.
  • Use more advanced treatments to address stubborn issues without surgery, such as:
  • Provide an honest assessment as to whether surgery is necessary, although less-invasive treatments are usually the solution.

Preventing Future Problems

To reduce your chances of experiencing heel pain in the future, the Long Island heel pain experts at Massapequa Podiatry Associates suggest that you take preventative action now. Here are our top recommendations: 

  • If you’re not already wearing something that provides good arch support and fits well, change your footwear. There should be enough room to wiggle your toes around in the toe box and the shoes shouldn’t rub or slip off when you walk or run on the treadmill or otherwise. 
  • Also, consider how long you’ve had your athletic shoes and if the treads are worn or they’re loose around the heels, replace them. 
  • Stop treadmill use for a while and alternate physical activities to reduce strain on your heels. Consider bicycling, swimming, or another form of movement that allows your heels a rest by not requiring you to run or jump. Build recovery into your workout plan by giving each muscle group a 24–48 hour rest between sessions.
  • Consider modifying the intensity of your exercise routine and taking frequent breaks. 
  • Soak your feet in warm water for up to 15 minutes after you exercise to reduce inflammation. You can add Epsom salt to the water if you prefer.
  • Place anti-fatigue mats on the floor if you frequently stand on a hard surface for long periods.
  • Keep your shoes on, even inside the house, for at least a few hours every day. This gives your feet the support they may be missing.
  • Purchase custom orthotics to provide the right corrective support.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Ease into new activities. Try starting at a low level of difficulty and slowly increasing over time.
  • Integrate stretches and conditioning exercises into your routine that prevent foot problems. Ask your podiatrist for calf release and plantar fascia stretches, and different towel movements to release hamstrings, ankle tendons, and other potentially restricted areas.

No one should have to live with any type of pain. At Massapequa Podiatry Associates in Long Island, we’re ready to ensure your foot health for years to come.