What are the Dangers of Running with Heel Pain?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Running with heel pain can worsen the pain and even debilitate the runner.
Running with heel pain can worsen the pain and even debilitate the runner.

Perhaps the most obvious danger of running with heel pain is that the runner can exacerbate the pain further, or even cause more severe injuries. Heel pain can be the result of several conditions, including plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, or even a bone fracture, so running with heel pain caused by these conditions can significantly worsen the pain or even debilitate the runner. Only the runner can make the decision whether to stop running when pain is felt, though it is often a good idea to do so to prevent further injury or stall training by causing the pain to worsen.

Runners who continue running with heel pain may cause new injuries. Heel pain very often causes the runner to alter his or her gait, meaning muscles may be impacted in abnormal ways. This can lead to pain in other parts of the body, including the legs and hips, as well as the back. This essentially means that running with heel pain has caused a situation in which the runner is now running with other body pains that can cause a complete stall in training, or worse, in day to day activities. The decision to stop running with heel pain will depend on the runner's willingness to deal with pain, and his or her interpretation of how bad the injury might be.

Conditions like plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the soft tissue of the foot, can become worse if the runner continues running with heel pain. The arch of the foot may collapse while running with plantar fasciitis, further enhancing the pain in the heel. In other cases, heel pain may be caused by heel spurs, which are abnormal bone growths in the heel bone. These spurs can cause plantar fasciitis as well if left untreated. While surgery is not commonly necessary to treat heel spurs, it may be an option in more severe cases. Most people can prevent or relieve heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis or heel spurs by choosing more supportive footwear, or by doing a gait analysis that may reveal abnormal foot movements during running.

Since the entire body's weight rests on the feet when walking, running, or standing, heel pain can cause other parts of the body to misalign or otherwise feel pain as a result of the heel pain. Heel pain in one foot may cause a person to favor that side of the body, leading to a misalignment of the hips or spine. This can cause pain throughout the body, especially if nerves become compressed as a result. Poor posture may occur, leading to body aches or headaches.

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    • Running with heel pain can worsen the pain and even debilitate the runner.
      Running with heel pain can worsen the pain and even debilitate the runner.