Understanding Heel Pain in Runners: Beyond Plantar Fasciitis

Heel pain is a common complaint among runners, often leading to discomfort and hindrance in their training routines. While plantar fasciitis is a well-known cause, it’s crucial to understand that heel pain can have a variety of origins. Accurate diagnosis is key to effective treatment and quick recovery.


Plantar Fasciitis

The Common Culprit: Plantar Fasciitis


Plantar fasciitis, more accurately termed plantar fasciopathy, is a frequent cause of heel pain. Contrary to popular belief, this condition is not primarily inflammatory. Risk factors include limited ankle flexibility, increased body mass, prolonged standing, and sudden changes in running intensity or duration. Recognizing these risk factors can help in both prevention and treatment.

Diagnosing Plantar Fasciitis


Symptoms of plantar fasciitis typically include pain at the plantar aponeurosis insertion, particularly noticeable during the first steps in the morning or after periods of inactivity. The windlass test, which involves dorsiflexion of the toes and noting the level of pain or discomfort, is a highly specific diagnostic tool for this condition.


Exploring Other Causes of Heel Pain


While plantar fasciitis is common, it’s important not to overlook other potential causes of heel pain:


  1. Fat Pad Contusion: This can result from direct impact or chronic stress, leading to pain in the center of the heel.
  2. Calcaneal Fracture: Often a result of an acute injury, presenting with intense pain, swelling, and difficulty in weight-bearing.
  3. Retrocalcaneal Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursa located between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone, often presenting with pain, swelling, and tenderness at the back of the heel.


Each of these conditions presents with unique symptoms and requires different management strategies.

Conclusion: A Comprehensive Approach


For persistent or worsening heel pain in runners, diagnostic imaging (like X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound) is often recommended to rule out fractures or other less common causes. It’s vital for therapists and healthcare providers working with runners to understand the range of potential causes of heel pain to ensure accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plans.

How to Heal Plantar Fasciitis | Foot Pain While Running

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Hala Basily


She moved to Canada in 1996, and she obtained her Canadian License in 1999. Hala has a vast range of expertise, during her 30 years of practice she pursued different training workshops in her field.

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