Person with sore heel

What Causes Heel Pain After Running and How Can I Treat It?

Person with sore heel


When we think of exercising, many of us think about running. It’s a great way to stay fit and maintain your health but sometimes it can result in pain or complications. 

If you’ve been experiencing heel pain after you run, don’t worry. There are a lot of ways that you can treat the issue and if you find your symptoms persist for more than a few weeks you can always talk to your GP or physio. 

What does the heel do?

When we are talking about heel pain, it’s helpful to understand what the heel actually does.

Your heel works alongside the arches to distribute any force placed on your foot. As you walk or run, your body weight is supported entirely by your feet and is spread out so that your entire foot carries the weight rather than just one bone or area. 

What causes heel pain after running?

When we run, the amount of force placed on the foot can be three times as much as when you’re standing still. Over a long time without rest, this alone can be enough to cause pain or damage. 

Many things can cause heel pain after running and, more often than not, pain will be caused by a combination of factors. Luckily, these can be broken down into three main categories.

Plantar fasciitis 

The plantar fascia is a tendon that runs from the ball of your foot to the heel. Its job is to absorb the impact on our feet as we use them. 

One of the most common causes of pain in the heel is damage to the plantar fascia through overuse, misuse or injury. This can cause the tendon to become inflamed, a condition called plantar fasciitis, and often results in pain. If you’re finding that you have:

  • Stiffness in the heel 
  • Pain in the morning when you first put weight on your foot
  • Swelling or redness 
  • If your arches are aching

If plantar fasciitis is left untreated, bone spurs can grow as the body tries to create more support. Unfortunately, it usually results in more pain and can require surgery to fix. 

Structural issues in the foot

Sometimes the structure of our feet or the connected muscles can be the cause of heel pain. 

These issues cause heel pain as the foot is used in a way that the body isn’t designed for. When they’re combined with overuse, misuse or footwear that isn’t adequately supportive, the issues can get worse. 

Structural issues leading to heel pain may include:

  • Arches that are too high or too low 
  • Muscle weakness in supporting muscles like calves
  • Bad alignment of joints such as ankles rolling outward or inward
  • Injuries that cause the body to compensate by changing the way your feet are used, like knee or hip issues

Poor movement

Poor movement is more than just using your feet in ways that they aren’t designed for. It’s a broad category that includes damage that occurs when the joints of your foot move or based on the environment you use them in. 

Running on harsh terrains, like uneven or rocky ground, can change your gait and cause pain. If you aren’t giving your feet adequate rest, they will become sore and possibly develop larger issues that are harder to recover from. It’s also possible that your bones may be weakened, causing small fractures that cause pain when the joint moves. 

What can I do to treat heel pain after running?

There are several things that you can try to reduce or treat mild pain.

If you are experiencing severe pain in your heel, it may be time to see a GP or physio. If you’re concerned that it may be an issue, don’t be afraid to see a professional. 

Rest your feet

Regardless of how fit you are, your feet need to take a break so they can repair themselves. 

Small and minor injuries can easily become bigger and chronic problems if they aren’t given time to heal. Take a break from your running for a couple of days or until the symptoms subside. 


If you are experiencing pain after running, applying ice to the pained area can help. 

Apply ice for 20 minutes on the painful area then take it off for 20 minutes, repeat this process for a couple of hours after running or until the pain subsides. 


Stretching is great for your body even if you aren’t exercising. Stretching your feet every day can help the pain subside and keep your feet healthy. 

Anti-inflammatory medication

Medications like ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain after running. Keep in mind that they don’t fix the underlying problem, they just manage the inflammation and pain. 

Support the foot properly 

There is a range of products available to assist your muscles, joints and ligaments in supporting your feet. Common solutions are athletic tape, proper shoes or orthotic inserts. 

If buying proper shoes is outside of your budget, orthotic inserts are the next best thing. Our arch support insoles can help you here. Designed by Australian podiatrists, orthotic inserts can protect your feet from injury, reduce joint stress, and improve muscle efficiency. 

Night splints 

Night splints can help treat plantar fasciitis by keeping your foot in a flexed position overnight. 

This stops the tendon from contracting during the night, eliminating or reducing pain in the morning. 

When to see a doctor

Heel pain can often be treated at home or with commercial measures but it’s important to know when you should see a professional. 

Symptoms continuing for more than a couple of weeks are a sign that it might be time to contact your GP or physio. If the pain is limiting your ability to walk or use your feet in any way, then you should call your doctor immediately. 

Our feet take on a lot when we run. If you’re experiencing pain in your heel after you exercise, several things could be the cause. Keeping an eye on how you use your feet and knowing when to call a professional is crucial if you don’t want to cause long-term damage to your feet. Luckily, many issues can be treated at home or by adjusting the way you run. Listen to your body and make sure not to overwork your feet.