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I'm training for a half marathon but now have heel pain

QUESTION

I have been training for a half marathon. I feel great, but have developed a pain in my right heel.

ANSWER

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Heel pain is usually a result of plantar fasciitis, a condition that develops when the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot acquires small tears and becomes irritated.

Make an appointment with a massage therapist, ART practitioner or physiotherapist to get manual therapy on your foot, as well as a concrete diagnosis. You don't want to treat yourself for plantar fasciitis only to discover in three months that something else was causing your pain.

The most common causes of plantar fasciitis is overuse, and faulty movement patterns.

The first step in the healing process is to stop the activity that is causing the irritation. In your case, I suggest a hiatus from running.

The second step is to address the acute symptoms, i.e., relieve the pain. Ice and massage your foot and stretch out your calves. Try rolling the bottom of your foot with a massage ball.

The third step is to figure out what caused the problem in the first place, so the problem does not resurface once you start running again.

For example, foot pronation during running causes the ankle to fall inwards and the toes to turn out slightly. This pulls on, and stresses, the plantar fascia, causing irritation and eventually, plantar fasciitis. If your feet pronate, you will need to strengthen your glutes and work on fixing your running gait.

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Another possible cause is overuse – for instance, if you increased your mileage too quickly while training for the half marathon, or did not give yourself enough rest.

Try to use this injury as a learning opportunity so that when you return to training you are a smarter and stronger runner.

TRAINERS TIP

During your hiatus, try non-impact activities like rowing, pool running, swimming lengths and strength training to maintain your fitness. Just stay away from strength moves that involve balance, especially single-leg balance exercises. They could irritate your injury.

Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at trainer@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in the Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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