A number of different problems can affect your game on the field, but few are quite as frustrating as heel pain.
As athletes on the field and in the gym, we rely on the strength and resilience of our legs in order to outrun and outplay the competition. Unfortunately, the non-stop sprinting, running, and jumping puts a significant amount of strain on our heels. Without proper support, rest, and recovery, an injury is just waiting to happen.
The heel is supported by a group of fibrous ligaments called the plantar fascia. It is susceptible to stress, especially when exposed to high impact activities that lead to tears in these abused ligaments. While many players and gym rats try to toughen it out and push through the pain, this abuse will catch up with you in time. In fact, it is estimated that roughly 10% of all sports injuries in the United States stem from plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the ligaments in the heel.
Impact Sports Give More Opportunity for Problems
High impact sports and training like football or Cross Fit are the most likely events to irritate and injure the muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments of your heel. Certain foot afflictions such as plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, Achilles tendinitis, bursitis and heel spurs are just a few of the many heel injuries that these activities expose us to every day. Additionally, ill fitted cleats and shoes cause friction around the heel, which leads to swelling and ultimately pain.
Getting Back in the Game
Heel problems typically begin with mild aches that increase in pain and length of time for recovery if more tension and force are added before fully healing. Under normal circumstances, heel pain can easily be remedied through a combination of rest, ice, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.
After a game, immediately ice the heel for about 15 minutes at a time to minimize swelling. Taking of non-prescriptive pain relievers may also be used to immediately control the pain. For those experiencing more intense pain and inflammation, a couple of days rest is required to bolster the body’s natural healing mechanisms.
For heel pain that stems from an inflamed plantar fascia or Achilles tendon, performing light stretching exercises to strengthen the calf and ankle can help ease the pain.
If after 3 days, the pain persists then it is time to consider visiting an Ideal Feet store or consulting with a medical professional. Mild injuries that are caught early may just require properly fitted arch supports and rest. Those who have let their injury get out of hand will be looking at a cast or brace to render the injured foot temporarily immobile, which is then followed up with physical therapy to re-establish movement in the foot, and orthotics to support the proper foot alignment.
Once you are completely healed, you can go back to your training provided that you start out slow before progressing back into your usual game.