While the weather outside may make it seem like Spring is still a long ways off, running season will be in full bloom in just one short month. Here are some ways to manage and treat heel pain before it derails your running season.

What Causes Foot Heel Pain

Before looking at preventative measures, it is important to understand the causes of foot heel pain. The majority of foot heel pain isn’t due to a single injury, like a twist or a fall but rather, it’s due to repetitive stress and pounding on the pavement day-in and day-out. The most common causes are plantar fasciitis, heel bursitis, tarsal tunnel syndrome, chronic inflammation of the heel pad, stress fractures, severs disease, or Achilles tendonitis. Gradual heel pain can also be caused by wearing footwear that lack support. The foot contains 26 bones and the heel, also known as the calcaneus, is the largest one. Heel pain is very common among athletes and especially runners because of the constant impact. The sufferer usually feels pain under the heel, which can be plantar fasciitis or just behind the heel, which can be Achilles tendonitis. This is where the Achilles connects to the heel bone. An injury to a runner or athlete can be devastating because it throws them out of their routine. And for many athletes, hitting the pavement everyday is their personal therapy and giving it up can be more painful than the injury itself. But if you don’t want the injury to get worse, you may have to give up your routine for a while. Runners can reduce their foot heel pain by taking time off from the sport until the pain lets up . That doesn’t mean reducing your routine, it means giving it up until the pain begins to diminish. But there are steps runners can take to prevent foot heel pain from getting to this point.

Proper Foot Heel Stretches

Stretching is very important. Do daily foot and heel stretches. For example, the roll out, where you put a ball under the arch of the foot and roll it back and forth, massaging the soft tissue at the arch of the foot. Do 30 repetitions seated and then stand up and do 30 more repetitions. Additionally, do calf stretches. Stand a little less than arm’s distance from the wall, step your left leg forward and your right leg back. Bend the knee and stretch the right calf. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.

Additional Tips

Additionally, wear shoes with proper arch support and use a topical anti-inflammatory cream with natural ingredients like devil’s claw, which has herbal pain relieving properties and arnica, which reduces pain and inflammation.

Sara Novak is a Natural Health Care Expert for Zax Health. Follow her on Twitter at @sarafnovak.