Relieve Heel & Foot Pain Without Painkillers
by Maarten Van Nus.
Decades of dealing with the human body have led me to conclude that most aches and pains can be quickly and easily remedied or prevented through the simple practice of stretching.
By stretching, I mean positioning your body so that a muscle or a group of muscles is isolated and then elongated using properly executed stretches to release the muscular tightness that is causing the pain and discomfort.
When we talk about muscles being tight, we are saying that the muscles in question are not in the relaxed state they should be at rest. Because everything is connected to something else in our body, muscle tightness in one area can cause pain in areas we wouldn’t expect to be affected to those muscles. For example, shoulder tightness can cause pain in the lower back, the upper arm, and even down into your wrist or hip! The tightness in the shoulder causes pulling and tension down into other areas that connect to the tight shoulder muscle or muscles.
The same can be said for our feet. Let’s take a look.
Foot & Heel Pain
We use our feet everyday and think nothing of it, but when your heel or the bottom of your foot (or feet) hurts, it is a hindrance that quickly becomes intolerable.
Because the pain is unbearable and we need our feet to move around, we tend to look for a quick fix to get rid of the pain so we can keep going about our business, as usual. That usually involves getting an over-the-counter pain-killer, such as Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or Aspirin (e.g. Bayer), or the more risky Non-Steroid Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (e.g. Advil), or naproxen (e.g. Aleve).
These drugs, however, do not address the real issue that is causing the pain and, overuse of any of them, can be harmful to other parts of your body, such as your liver, heart, kidneys, circulatory system, and digestion.
Some people just keep popping over-the-counter pain-relievers and others head to their doctors to solve the problem. Doctors tend to prescribe stronger pain-relievers or recommend surgery if the pain is unbearable or has been a problem for a long time. Again, neither of these approaches actually address the cause of the problem, which is very often located above the foot, in the leg.
Before running off to a pharmacist or doctor, we strongly suggest you try stretching to solve the problem. If you are experiencing heel and/or foot pain – or want to prevent it from happening — we recommend you try this simple stretch: The Calf-Achilles Tendon stretch.
Calf-Achilles Tendon Stretch
Why this stretch?
This is a great stretch for loosening up the middle of the calf muscle (Gastrocnemius), which is located on the back of the lower leg between the heel and the knee. The Achilles tendon attaches the bottom of the calf muscle to our heel and our foot bottom (plantar fascia) and it is critical to our ability to walk and move our feet and heels.
If your calf muscle gets too tight and never relaxes, it pulls up on the Achilles tendon constantly which, in turn, tightens up the planter fascia ligament that runs through your heel. That prolonged pull causes pain in the heel and/or the middle of the sole of the foot.
Stretching the tight calf muscle relaxes it so it is not in a consistent state of tightness, which relieves the tension in the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, which alleviates the pain in the heel and foot.
- Stand with your feet together.
- Step your right foot back a comfortable distance. Make sure your right foot is pointing forward and parallel with your left foot.
- Keep your right heel on the ground and your torso upright.
- Bend only your left knee slightly, until you feel a pull in your right calf.
- Hold the stretch for 30 to 45 seconds. You should start to feel the calf muscle relax as you stretch. Release the stretch by straightening the front leg slightly.
- Slide your front foot back toward your back foot slightly.
- Again, bend your left knee while keeping your right heel on the floor, and keep your torso upright.
- Now, bend your right knee slightly until you feel a pull under your calf in your Achilles tendon.
- Hold the stretch for 30 to 45 seconds. Release by straightening both legs and stepping your feet together.
- Switch feet.
The key to this stretch is to keep your back heel on the ground and your upper body upright as you perform throughout the stretch. If your back heel comes off the ground at all, bring the back foot closer to your front foot (that is, step back a shorter distance).
As with any new exercise, take it easy and start with just a short distance between your feet. As you become more flexible over time, you will be able to spread your feet further apart and be able to bend the knee of the front leg more. Just be sure to always keep the heel of your back foot on the ground.
If you felt a tightness in your calf while doing the stretch, you know that your calf muscle is not in a relaxed state when at rest, which it should be.
That means you should be doing this stretch daily to release the tightness in your calf and stop the pain in your foot. No painkillers required.
If you do not feel a resistance in your calf when you do the stretch, the pain in your foot is due to something else – often arthritis or even a broken bone or dislocation of a joint (over ¼ of all the bones in our body are in our foot, so there are lots of joints there as well) — if this stretch doesn’t help relieve your foot pain, please do see your doctor for a diagnosis of the problem.