Heel pain has many causes, and Achilles tendonitis is one of the more common ones. If you noticed pain in your heel after a vigorous weekend basketball game or after running longer than you usually do, then you may have strained your Achilles tendon. This tendon attaches your calf muscle to your heel bone. It gets weaker with age, and it is susceptible to injury when you suddenly increase your physical activity such as happens when you only exercise on the weekends and you overdo it. This type of heel pain is usually easy to treat as long as you stop the activity that causes the strain. Here are a few things to try.
Apply Ice To Your Heel
If the back of your heel seems swollen, you should apply ice to it. Ice reduces swelling and helps reduce some of your pain. You can apply ice off and on throughout the day, but take care not to injure the skin over your heel by applying ice directly, or for too long at one time. Try resting your foot on a cloth ice bag so your foot is comfortable. Position your foot higher than the rest of your body if possible, as this will decrease swelling too.
Avoid Further Strain
You don't have to stay bedridden or sedentary when you have heel pain from an Achilles tendon injury, but you should avoid further strain if possible. You may need to give up running and jumping until your pain is gone. Gentle exercises such as swimming give you a chance to work out without stressing your feet. You may also need to limit your heavy lifting and doing activities that require you to stand on your toes. Walking shouldn't be avoided though, unless you are in severe pain. If you become totally inactive, your foot could become stiff and be slower to heal. Activity causes increased blood flow that enhances healing.
Wear A Heel Cup
You may need to put a padded heel cup into your shoe. This elevates your heel so there is less strain on your Achilles tendon when you walk. The padding of the cup acts as a shock absorber too, so your heel experiences less pain while you walk. In addition to elevating your heel, you want to make sure the arch of your foot is supported as well. If the shoes you wear don't offer much support, you may want to buy arch supports and put those in your shoes.
Buy New Shoes
Your current athletic shoes may not fit you properly. When that's the case, your foot is more susceptible to injuries such as a tendon strain. It's important to wear shoes that support your feet properly when you run or participate in other sports. The shoes should have padding in the heel to absorb shock, strong arch supports, a wide area for the ball of your foot, and plenty of toe room. If you have unusually high or low arches, you may need to see a podiatrist for help choosing footwear that supports your feet. Your feet are under stress all day long, and even more so when you exercise. If you don't wear proper shoes, you may tear a tendon or the fascia in your feet. That causes pain in your heel and sole of your foot that may take a long time to heal.
Do Foot Stretches
Foot and calf stretches help stretch and strengthen your Achilles tendon. These exercises may help you recover more quickly, and they'll also help prevent a recurrence of tendonitis. Your podiatrist can teach you exercises specifically to target your Achilles tendon. By doing them regularly, your feet won't be suddenly stressed and at risk of injury when you decide to run longer than usual or play a quick sports game.
Tendon pain results from tiny tears in the tissue. It may take a few weeks for your Achilles tendon to heal well enough that you don't feel pain. Keep in mind, you don't want to ignore heel pain and push yourself to do your usual activities. If you do, the tiny tears could get bigger. It's even possible for your tendon to rupture. Therefore if your pain is bothersome and it seems to last a long time, it's probably a good idea to have your foot examined by a podiatrist so you can get proper treatment.