Pele and Neymar. Ronaldo and Messi. Beckham and Zidane.
The history of soccer is certainly filled with amazing players. And one thing we can almost always guarantee is that every one of these sports legends (and many other sports enthusiasts and weekend warriors alike) have endured heel pain at least once in their lifetime.
In fact, soccer players are at a higher risk than athletes in many other sports for experiencing heel pain. And unfortunately, once a bad case of heel pain becomes chronic, it can be very difficult to get rid of it. That means more pain, making it difficult just to get through the day, let alone dribble down the soccer field towards the net.
Even worse, heel pain can sideline soccer players for entire seasons—if not for life!
Are you starting to feel pain in your heels whenever you rise out of bed in the morning? Or maybe your heel pain comes about later in the day, or after practicing those kicks?
Well, you have taken a very important first step: recognizing the problem.
Now, let’s take a closer look at what exactly may be causing your heels to hurt, and how you can treat and prevent this annoying condition from holding you back.
What is Causing Your Heel Pain?
No matter if you are a professional soccer player or you just enjoy a friendly soccer match with friends here and there, the most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. However, there are other reasons as to why your heels may be giving you grief, too.
Let’s discuss these possibilities:
This condition develops when the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that connects the heel to the toes and supports the arch of your foot, becomes inflamed.
This condition develops when the tendon connecting the calf to the heel becomes inflamed. Achilles tendinitis often develops due to overuse or degeneration (wear and tear) of the tendon over time.
This condition develops when the bursae, which are fluid-filled sacs that cushion joints and muscles, become irritated and swollen. Symptoms may include pain, stiffness, and swelling of the heel and back of the ankle.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome.
This condition develops when the tibial nerve (located in the back on the ankle) becomes compressed or pinched in the tarsal tunnel. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, or shooting pain in the heel.
This condition develops as a bump or enlargement on the back of the heel bone. The Achilles tendon runs over the bump, which may cause pain or degeneration of the tendon. Symptoms may include redness, inflammation, and severe pain at the back of the ankle.
Teens going through puberty and who are regularly active may also suffer from Sever’s disease, but this is usually a temporary growth-related issue. In all cases, however, finding the root cause of your problem will help determine the best course of action for getting your symptoms under control.
So if you are experiencing unusual symptoms in your heel – or your feet in general – you should come visit our office right away! And in the meantime, you should take some measures to prevent heel pain, or keep it from becoming worse.
How Can You Prevent Heel Pain?
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to steer clear from heel pain, including conservative treatment methods. Here are a few things you can try:
Get a gait analysis.
The truth is not all feet are equally proficient at cushioning and supporting your weight. Many people are born with biomechanical or structural foot flaws, like flat feet or high arches. These conditions can increase the pressure and tension on the heels.
The gait analysis data and standard evaluation will help us determine not only the basic structure of your foot, but also what’s going on during all three primary gait pivots (heel, ankle, and forefoot). This gives us precise data to identify misalignments, asymmetry, mistiming, and other subtle flaws.
And armed with that data, we can prescribe treatment options that will actually work – for example, the perfect pair of custom orthotics to counteract the precise biomechanical deficits you have.
Wear the right footwear.
Are you wearing the wrong pair of cleats? You’d be surprised at how many soccer players actually wear ill-fitting footwear. It could be that your current pair doesn’t fit you, doesn’t provide enough support for your specific foot structure, is worn out, or isn’t right for your style of play.
So let us take a look at your footwear! We will also talk to you about your symptoms, your game, your environment – everything from the position and style you play, to the field you play on, to your level of competition, and more.
Be wary of ground surfaces.
If you typically play indoors, on artificial turf, or on other harder surfaces, your feet and heels will absorb more impact force. On the other hand, surfaces that are too soft (like waterlogged grass) can also lead to increased pronation and also result in heel pain.
You should avoid playing in dangerous conditions whenever possible. And if conditions are less than ideal, it may be worth looking into adjusting your footwear or your playstyle. Some cleats are designed specifically to deal with turf, for instance. If you tend to play a lot on both turf and grass, you should really consider having a separate pair of cleats for each surface.
Gradually increase the intensity level of your activities.
Those who try to do too much, too soon are at high risk of all types of sports injuries, including heel pain.
It’s important to condition your body properly so that it can meet the physical challenges you subject it to. That doesn’t mean you have to spend all day in the gym, but it does mean you should listen to what your body is telling you and avoid going too hard, too fast.
If you’re a bit out of shape for the new season, start your training early, and slow. Build gradually week by week so that by the time you’re ready to compete you’re at full strength and speed. And of course, remember to warm up, cool down, and stretch every time you play.
Do some cross-training.
Soccer is a great way to stay active, but it can also be hard on your feet and heels. And if you’re training hard with soccer, running, and high-impact exercise every day, your heels are going to wear down – especially if you’re playing indoors or on turf.
So make sure you build adequate rest days into your schedule. And on those off days, prioritize low-impact exercise instead. Go to the gym and focus on your strength training, go for a bike ride (or ride the stationary), or go swimming.
Never push through the pain.
If your feet are hurting and it’s affecting the way you play the game, stop what you are doing immediately and come visit our office to get the relief you need.
Even better – if you know someone that is also dealing with heel pain (or any other foot or ankle problem, for that matter), refer them to our office and we will give you a FREE bottle of urea cream!
So what are you waiting for?
Do You Need The Help Of An Experienced and Caring Podiatrist? Contact Our El Paso Foot Doctor Today.
If you're experiencing any type of foot pain you should speak with an experienced podiatrist as soon as possible. Please contact us online to schedule your appoinment or call one of our convenient El Paso offices directly. To reach our Sierra Tower Building podiatrist office please call 915.533.5151. You can find driving directions here. To reach our George Dieter Drive podiatry office please call 915.856.3331. Driving directions are available here.