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Pounding the pavement while running puts stress on your feet. If you overdo it or don't wear proper shoes, your feet might fight back with pain in different areas, including the heel. Overuse causes most heel pain, MedlinePlus notes. If you return from a run with a sore heel, take the time to figure out why and to let it heal before stressing it again. A sore heel, while often not serious, can cut your runs short for some time if you don't take proper care of it.
A number of factors can cause heel pain after running. Plantar fasciitis -- inflammation in the fascia, a band of tissue that runs from the heel to the toes -- can cause pain. If you step on a stone or other hard object while running, you can bruise the fat pad beneath your heel or the heel bone itself. Loss of fat in the fat pad under the heel often occurs as you age or if you're overweight. Running too much can also cause inflammation in the Achilles tendon, which inserts in the back of the heel. Running can also cause stress fracture of the calcaneus bone that forms the heel. Bursitis -- inflammation of the fluid-filled bursa around the heel -- and tarsal tunnel syndrome -- compression of the posterior tibial nerve -- can also cause heel pain.
Your medical practitioner might be able to diagnose the cause of your heel pain just by your symptoms. Plantar fasciitis pain is usually worse when you first get up in the morning. You might feel pain with palpation over the tendon with an Achilles tendon injury or have pain when your practitioner bends your toes up with plantar fasciitis. Trapped nerves can cause a burning pain or tingling sensation, while a bone bruise might cause a deep aching pain. Skin over a bruise might look discolored. X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging, better known as MRI, can help your practitioner diagnose the cause of heel pain.
Sometimes simple treatment such as rest, icing for 20 minutes several times a day, inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or elevating your foot can improve pain. A few days off your foot can reduce the swelling and pain so you can start running again. See your doctor immediately if you have severe pain and swelling in your heel, if you can't stand on your toes or if you can't bend your foot downward or walk normally. For persistent heel pain, try home remedies first and see your doctor if your heel pain continues after a month, MayoClinic.com recommends. Your doctor might consider a steroid injection in the heel to reduce inflammation. Wearing night splints can help relieve plantar fasciitis. Tarsal tunnel syndrome might require surgery to release the compressed posterior tibial nerve.
Wearing the right shoes can help prevent heel injury when you run. Shoes that rub against the outside of your heel can irritate the Achilles tendon over time. Replace your shoes when they show wear; shoes that wear at the mid-sole can lose their shock-absorbing ability and can cause heel bruising. Sagging at the mid-sole can cause Achilles tendonitis. Add a shock-absorbing heel insert to your shoe to cushion the impact, Singapore sports doctor Low Wye Mun suggests. Stretching exercises can help loosen a tight tendon. Run on soft surfaces rather than on concrete if possible to reduce the impact on your feet; avoid walking barefoot.