Tips for Reducing Heel Pain When Playing
All right, team. Time to huddle up!
Good coaches set their teams on a path to success in two big ways:
- They train their players, developing discipline and strengths.
- They analyze challenges and develop a plan to best take them on.
Whether you coach the pros or a youth league, the job is about more than finding any way to victory. You must keep your players healthy and in their best shape, too. Yes, that improves your odds of winning, but you also have a sense of responsibility toward providing the best for your players.
Heel pain is a very common symptom of many sports injuries, but a good coach can apply the methods above to help greatly reduce the risks of players suffering them.
And yes, we see some of you raising your hands, asking to be excused because you “don’t actually coach anyone.” We’re keeping you in, though, because it’s just not true. You are your own coach, and any tips we recommend here are just as applicable to yourself as they are anyone else!
How do you incorporate heel pain prevention into your game plan? It’s not too difficult at all.
Train Against Pain
Any coach worth their clipboard knows that warming up properly is crucial to preventing injury. That’s simply how humans operate.
Our bodies must be conditioned to take on the forces we subject them to, and suddenly going into a full burst without giving our muscles, tendons, and other tissues a chance to get ready can be a one-way ticket to painful sports injuries such as Achilles tendinitis.
What are some good ways to warm up the feet and ankles on the field? Work some of these into your warm-up routine:
- Lunges. This stretch targets the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia (a common culprit of morning heel pain when it becomes inflamed). It also stretches the calf muscles, which attach to the heel bone. Keeping calf muscles loose can help keep them from pulling more forcefully against the heel bone and Achilles.
- Ankle Dorsiflexion. If you have the room and equipment for it, shift to a seated position and loop a strap (like an exercise band or a towel) around the upper part of the foot. Gently pull back on the strap to stretch the foot upward. Once again, this is a great stretch for the calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and plantar fascia.
- Heel Raises. This one can be performed anywhere, at just about any time. From a standing position, raise your heels up so you are on the balls of your feet, hold a few seconds, then lower. Repeat several times, gradually building up more as you gain strength. If you have access to a step, stand on the edge of it and lower your heels beneath the level of the step as well. Make sure you have access to a railing or something else sturdy to hold onto for balance!
Other types of warm-ups may be more preferable depending on one’s condition and the physical activities they engage in. Don’t be afraid to consult with us or an expert in the sport for recommendations.
The key with warming up is to be consistent. You need that d-word: discipline! Don’t skip warm-up time for anything, no matter how good and “ready to go” you might feel—certain parts of you might feel otherwise!
In the Game (or Workout, or Just Playing with the Kids, etc.)
After warming up, it’s time to get moving for real! However, there are still some items you should keep in mind:
- Don’t play without the right equipment. Having the proper footwear provides your feet and ankles with essential cushioning and support where they are most needed for that activity. A pair of simple walking shoes will not hold up as well as basketball shoes on the court. But basketball shoes might beat up your feet more than running shoes if you take them out on a half-marathon. Make sure everyone under your tutelage—including yourself—has what they need.
- Don’t over-push it. A good warm-up and the right footwear still aren’t a license to go harder and faster than you should. Trying to push yourself more than your body is currently conditioned to take substantially increases the risk of a sports injury. This counts for both sudden injuries (like an Achilles injury) and injuries that develop over time due to repetitive motion (such as stress fractures from the impacts of running).
Challenging oneself is part of growing stronger, but it must be done reasonably and patiently. Do not shoot for more than a 10 percent increase in intensity per week. This intensity can be measured in time, distance, or weight.
- Human bodies are incredible organic machines that are capable of repairing their own parts (most of the time). When we exert ourselves, we are breaking down our tissues in order to rebuild them—stronger than before.
However, in order to recover, our bodies must have enough rest. It might seem counterintuitive to some, but rest days should be a mandatory inclusion in any training or workout plan! Continuing to push through without recovery days is simply grinding down on the body more and more, breaking it down without allowing it to build back up. Eventually, something gives and you really do leave it all out on the field—and sometimes must be carted off it
Get Heel Pain Treatment When You Need It
A big element of coaching is challenging yourself and your players to see improvement. Doing this wisely can lead to big gains over time. Doing it stubbornly will not.
If heel pain or another problem is present, it should be examined and addressed as soon as possible. Trying to “push through” and stick to the current plan only increases the risk of further injury and, ultimately, staying out longer.
At Premier Podiatry Group, we understand the needs and drives of athletes. Our goal is always to get you back to action as quickly and safely as possible, mitigating the chances of chronic injury. Whether the plan involves standard treatments or advanced technology, we’re here to see the best results for every patient.