How I’ve kicked heel pain in the butt

Foot pain? Heel pain? Pain in the butt?


One of those three things doesn’t belong.

But they all relate, right?

For many months I’ve experienced some foot pain. It is nothing that kept me from running. Running 100-mile weeks and racing quite often, doing half marathons, road races and even a couple of marathons, I’ve run through it and been happy as a clam to do so.


Basically, I wake up, my feet feel a little stiff, like I’ve been mall-walking all day, even though I just woke up. And even though I never go to the mall. And even if I were to go to the mall I wouldn’t go mall-walking per se. People watching, yes. Mall walking, no. Anyway… When I go to run, one heel hurts for about the first half to 3/4 mile of every run, every morning. Then it goes away and the feeling doesn’t come back until the next morning.

Same story.

Then after my marathon a couple of weeks ago, the feeling was more intense and didn’t seem to want to go away. So I talked with the resident expert, Dr. Duke. He quickly asked, “Are you stretching your calves?”

Well… no.

At least probably not enough.

So now in the past week, I’ve been more diligent to take care of myself and the change is unbelievable.

Pain. Gone.

So these are some things I’ve done to nip this pain in the bud.

1) Look up the chain. The muscles that most quickly affect the heel are those of the lower legs. Best to start with some healthy lower leg stretches.

2) Prepare your feet to hit the floor. If you can take an extra minute or two in the morning, before you even get out of bed. Wiggle those toes and feet and start to bend and stretch the ankles. Flex the feet. Point the toes. Etc. This will help to make that initial step onto the flat, hard floor much less of a shocker to the feet.

3) Ice bath.

camping 14-64-2Kidding. This is the only time I’ve ice bathed in the past year. Probably more like two or three years. And, as you can tell, I was smiling way too much for it to even be icy. It was cold but not icy. Some people swear by ice baths and they do have their place. My intuition with this pain told me that I needed warmth to increase blood flow, so I’ve kept my feet warm by wearing socks when lounging around the house or to even to bed.

4) Have a little person stand on you. I often kneel to work at the computer, fold laundry or just to be eye to eye with my Little Person. So my Baby Boy often stands on my calves. This is awesome and a great little massage of the lower legs, which helps to lessen tightness tugging on the feet. (What a weird picture…)


If you don’t have a little person, then you can foam roll. That works too.

5) Don’t stop running. Might seem counter-intuitive but pain doesn’t always mean take a day or a week off. Frequently, yes, it does, but if you’re performing some of these self-maintenance techniques then the blood flow and strength you gain from staying active will be worth it and help you to recover.

6) Try a tool. These are some of my favorites: a foot massager-thingy is great to give the feet a little TLC OR try to take a ball (tennis or lacrosse) and roll the foot around over it AND/OR the mini foam roller with projectiles is fantastic for all-over foam rolling. And my right toes are giving the peace symbol. Great. Like a cat really enjoying a belly scratch.


7) New shoes. Take a look at how many miles you’ve put on your shoes. It might be time for a new pair? I love the Altra Torin 1.5. These babies have been stashed for several weeks since just after playing these cards right in a race, waiting for me to break them out. It’s time.

8) Adjust your schedule, even if just slightly. This past weekend I had a hard 16 mile run planned. Instead of running in the morning as I would normally, I ran in the afternoon because I knew I would be more warmed up. This was good.

9) Run hills. And of that same 16-mile run, I ran the entire 16 miles on my treadmill with it set to an incline, so uphill for all 16 miles. I did this so that I would really encourage a forward foot landing and a bit more stretching as I ran throughout the arches of my feet. I wore my heart-rate monitor for this run because otherwise I would have run based off pace if not running uphill. I just kept it in a 163-166 range which would be comparable to marathon effort. I was throwing caution into the wind to do this run and then proceed with this week of running which so far I’m on track to put in 100 miles (all on my treadmill). But I’m so stinking excited that the pain is gone!


10) Don’t give up. You can recover from injuries, large and small. It’s important to be positive and believe. In the run pictured above, I was reading from Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind. There were so many good points that it made it easy to run 16 miles. But anyway, one main thing I read was, “We have the amazing privilege to believe in the impossible.

So do it.

Believe in the impossible.

Train hard.

Live a full life, one mile or even one step at a time.

And keep your feet healthy as you go.


Have you experienced any foot pain?

Share how you’ve overcome injury…



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