Do you feel severe pain in your heel, especially when you take your first few steps out of bed in the morning? You may be suffering from plantar fasciitis, one of the most common injuries among runners. Most commonly, heel pain is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia -- the tough band of tissue that supports the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. The stabbing or burning pain of plantar fasciitis is usually worse in the morning because the fascia tightens overnight. As you warm up during your run, the pain normally decreases and is more tolerable, but it may return after an hour or so of running.
Plantar fasciitis is common in long-distance runners because running can place too much stress on your heel bone and the soft tissue attached to it. Wearing old, worn-out running shoes or ones that lack arch support may be a factor.
Other causes of plantar fasciitis are overpronation (when your feet roll inward too much) or too-tight calf muscles. Having flat feet or high arches may also cause added stress. High-heeled shoes can also be lead to plantar fasciitis because thet make your Achilles tendon contract and shorten, which puts strain on the tissue around your heel.
You'll want to decrease your miles until the pain subsides, but that doesn't mean you have to stop exercising completely. Swap swimming or bicycling for running. You'll likely be able to return to running as the pain gradually improves or disappears. For self-care treatment, you can hold a cloth-covered ice pack over the area of pain for 15 to 20 minutes three or four times a day or after activity. Stretching your calf muscles may also provide relief.
Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may ease pain and inflammation, although they won't treat the underlying problem. You can also try acupressure techniques: Apply pressure to your heel by rolling a golf ball with the arch of your foot while you are standing and stabilized. This can help reduce pain and increase blood flow. Try rolling the golf under your arch for a half hour a day. It may hurt the first week, but you should see some improvement by the second week.
If self-treatment doesn't work, you may need to see a doctor for orthotics or night splints. Physical therapy may help stretch your plantar fascia and strengthen lower leg muscles, which stabilize your ankle and heel. A physical therapist can also show you how to apply athletic tape to support the bottom of your foot.