How Changes in Activity Can Affect Heel Pain – And Tips for Relief!

Humans are creatures of habit, so change can often have a bigger impact on us than we’re willing to admit. These adaptations often affect our mood, but they can have physical effects as well.

Heel pain is something that can be very dependent upon circumstances—both internal and external. While it makes some intuitive sense that a change such as a stay-at-home order might lead to someone having less heel pain, that is not always how the story goes!

Changes to our circumstances—as well as how we respond to them—can have plenty of different effects on our feet. And just as heel pain can stem from many different potential causes, changes can have varying impacts on different people.

The best way to address persistent heel pain is always with the help of a professional. We can get to the root of your discomfort, and from there recommend the most effective courses of treatment.

While we remain open to help patients with urgent needs at this time—and pain is certainly an urgent need—we also understand that circumstances might not be ideal to come see us right now. We highly recommend not waiting on matters, and at the very least giving us a call to let us know what’s going on. But we’re also not going to sit back and let you suffer at home if there’s something you could be doing in the meantime!

Not all of the advice we will supply here may work for your particular case of heel pain. Once again, that is largely due to the wide mix of conditions and influences that could be at play. But if something can help even a little bit, it’s worth doing.

How Much Time Are You Spending in Your Shoes?

If you previously spent most of your day in some wretched, uncomfortable shoes, then being out of them is likely a blessing! But what if your shoes have been supporting your feet and you’re now spending more time out of them?

Even if you are not on your feet as often, that lack of support over time can make a difference—even more so if:

  • You have custom orthotic inserts in those shoes.
  • Your feet are spending a lot of time on hardwood floors or other overly firm surfaces.

If heel pain has been increasing while staying at home, consider putting your shoes back on for at least part of your day, to see if that helps. You will want to clean the bottoms of them first, of course, just so you don’t track dirt around and tick off anyone you’re living with.

If shoes inside are simply out of the question, a good, supportive set of slippers might provide some needed relief instead.

Man With Heel Pain

Move and Stretch Through the Day

A common cause of heel pain—especially when it comes to conditions such as plantar fasciitis—stems from tissues either being at rest too long (such as overnight) or being strained by muscles (such as tight calves) consistently pulling on them.

Getting some stretching and movement focused on your lower limbs and feet can help alleviate these problems, and may help reduce pain over time.

Here is a stretch and a simple exercise that can be done right at home. If these help, consider branching out to some additional exercises. We can help you determine which ones might be best for you, but always remember to stop any exercise immediately if it begins to cause you pain!

  • Belt Stretch – This is a great exercise you can do right in bed before getting up, and may help reduce that initial jolt of heel pain in the morning. You will need a belt, towel, exercise band, leash, or anything else that can serve as a reasonable strap.
    • Sit up straight, with one leg out on the bed in front of you.
    • Loop the belt around the upper part of your foot, against the ball of your foot and toes. Keep an end of the belt in each hand.
    • Gently pull back on the strap, flexing the top of your foot back. Keep your knee as straight as you can.
    • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times with each foot.
  • Marble Pickup – A good exercise for your plantar fascia that you can do while watching TV! It sounds simple, but you might need a bit of practice at first.
    • Sit with your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Near your feet, place about a dozen marbles (or other small, harmless objects you wouldn’t mind picking up with your feet) and a small bowl.
    • Using one foot, pick up the objects one by one and deposit them in the bowl, using your toes.
    • Repeat with the other foot.

Monitor Your Movement

Perhaps a change in routine hasn’t lowered your activity, but increased it! Are you heading out for more walks and runs? Making sure the dogs get their exercise (whether they want to or not)?

Being active is something we’ll always champion, but you want to do it right to avoid potential injuries and pain. Even just walking, if you increase your frequency too much at one time, can lead to a damaging amount of strain to your feet.

If you are heading out more often, make sure it is in supportive shoes made for the activity. It also pays to start out at a relatively low intensity and gradually increase it over time—no more than 10% time, distance, or weight per week. And if your body is telling you things are too much, listen and lower your level.

Remember: it’s always better to slow down than to have an injury stop you completely!

Do Not Hesitate on Heel Pain

Even if at-home measures help somewhat, please come see us if they do not get rid of your pain completely! Odds are good that additional measures may be needed to find you full relief.

We also have a free guide to heel pain that can make a good read. Simply visit our request page to reserve a copy for yourself.

Our Palm Desert office remains open for you. Give us a call at (760) 568-0108 or fill out our online contact form to reach out to us.

Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle
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