Ever had your heel hurt?
I had never experienced it until about two weeks ago when I was late to my co-ed soccer game and I ran out onto the field with no warm up. I know, I know, I know better. This was 7pm, and I figured that since I had worked out/warmed up with my 5am workout group that morning I would be fine.
Turns out, my accidental experiment with a 14 hour “warmup” gap isn’t terribly effective nor do I recommend it. When the game concluded, I had a super sore left heel and my teammate was complaining of a sore low back. She attributed the soreness to a weak core and the hard ground we were playing on.
I had my doubts that the ground was the problem.
If the ground was the problem, or the sport was the problem, then everyone playing that sport on that ground should be struck down by some sort of malady as we were. I listened closely to my teammates chitter-chatter after the game, and no one else was complaining of anything.
There goes that theory. If it is not the ground’s fault, then what could possibly be wrong?
Guess I just have to take a good long look at the body I used during the game. (Sigh. It’s always me! 🙂
I instantly suspected my quads were too tight, which interfered with my hamstrings being able to work properly, which was going to make my calf work more, which would make the Achilles tight, which would pull on my heel where it attaches, and make my heel hurt. That seemed totally reasonable. I was astounded at the weird places my heel would hurt. Driving in the car. Lying in bed. Both times the heel was totally unloaded …absolutely no pressure on it…but it burned! 🙁
My client Juanita has been dealing with a very sore heel for a couple weeks now too, and she said it hurt more after her Physical Therapist tried to massage it directly. That caught my attention.
Why wouldn’t massaging the heel make it feel better?
My client Trish had been telling me her heel hurt too, off and on, for some weeks now.
So, dear readers, when I get “hurt”, I go into experiment mode. First off, to test my too-tight-quad theory, I hopped on the Trigger point roller and rolled, scrubbed, and compressed my quads just like my client Stacy is in the picture below.
Yep, definitely better. Oooh, those hamstrings working is a fabulous thing!
However, the next morning, the pain was back with a vengeance when I wanted to go running. I noticed one really notable thing: the weight distribution in my feet was what’s called “counter-rotated”, meaning the weight was on the ball of my right foot, and super heavy on the heel of my left foot.
Have you ever paid attention to the weight distribution in your feet? Stand up on a flat level surface, and close your eyes, and think about where the weight is in your feet. Is it in the balls or heels, or one ball and one heel? How about insides or outsides of feet or one of each? How about more weight on the right foot, or more weight on the left?
Consistently, over the next two weeks, my heel would hurt, and I would notice that the weight distribution was counter-rotated. So what do you do to center your weight distribution in your feet again? You twist. I blogged about twisting last time and I tried some other versions of twisting as well. Here are my clients Stacy and Jim demonstrating them for you:
Start lying on your tummy with your arms out to the side in the letter “T”. Then, using your glute and hamstring, bring the opposite foot to the opposite hand for 90 seconds like this:
Now, if lying on your tummy doesn’t sound fun, try walking twisty lunges instead:
Go out into a lunge, then put the opposite hand next to the foot and open up into a big twist. After any twist, you always want to neutralize from the twist with something like cats and dogs ( cat/cow in yoga).
Here’s the Cat where your back arches up and your head drops. Try 10 times:
And the Dog where your back sways, head comes up, and shoulder blades collapse together:
How did that go for you? Any better?
Finally, I did a motion experiment, this time with my client Trish. She and I went running, and her heel hurt within seconds of us beginning to run. I said, “Let’s try something. I’m pretty confident your heel isn’t the problem and your glute and hamstring are. So, while you’re running, I want you to consciously contract that glute and hammy on the sore heel side while you run and let me know if it makes a difference.” I had tried it myself, and it had instantly taken the pain out of the heel, but I didn’t know if it would replicate with an unsuspecting client. Her head spun around, and she looked at me saying with complete amazement,
“It’s gone. The heel pain is totally gone!”
Voila. A couple strategies to help you combat heel pain! Let us know how the exercises went and what you think in the comments below.