Heel spurs are a foot injury caused by long-term strain placed on the plantar fascia, a tendon that runs along the bottom of the foot. This area becomes inflamed, causing pain and muscle stiffness, and calcium deposits form a spur on the bone to protect it. Fortunately, heel spurs typically improve with conservative treatment methods, and you can still continue exercising. If pain persists over 12 months or exercise worsens your pain, consult your doctor. You may need an x-ray to diagnose the severity of your heel spur and rule out more serious injuries, like fractures.
Stretching is essential to exercising with heel spurs and can help lead to recovery. Tight calf muscles and tendons contribute to pain, so stretching the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles make exercising with a heel spur more comfortable. Perform a stair stretch while standing on a stair or curb, holding on to maintain balance. Slide one foot back and allow your body weight to pull the heel into a stretch. When you feel tension, pause and hold for 30 seconds. Perform three times on each side, at least once per day.
Swimming and stationary biking are both great cardio options for heel spur sufferers. These are non-weight-bearing, no-impact activities, so no added strain or pressure is placed on the heel, allowing it time to rest and heal. If you still want to incorporate strength training into your fitness plan, all upper-body strength-training exercises are safe, and seated lower-body strength exercises, such as leg extensions and leg raises, will tone muscles without placing undue stress on your feet.
Walking With Heel Spurs
While high-impact running or jogging should be avoided, you can still perform moderate cardio activity with a heel spur. Walking on a treadmill is less impact than walking on a hard surface like concrete, but you should limit the duration of your workouts and pace yourself so you do not aggravate the spur. If your normal workout lasts for 30 minutes, walk for only 15 minutes and vary the incline as you go. This will help keep pressure off the spur. Stretch for 10 minutes before beginning, focusing on your lower legs, and wear footwear with shock-absorbent soles and no signs of excessive wear to cushion the spur.
After you complete a workout, apply ice to the heel spur for at least 15 minutes to keep inflammation at bay. When you aren't working out, stick to comfortable shoes with a supportive arch whenever possible. You can add gel heel insoles, which can be found at any drugstore; they provide cushion and support if you must wear non-supportive shoes. At the end of every day, perform stair stretches for your calves and give your foot plenty of rest so you are able to continue your normal exercise schedule.
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