How to Escape Heel Pain While Training for Prison Hill


The Escape from Prison Hill Trail Races (in Carson City on April 21) are mixing things up a little bit this year. We’ll touch on the changes momentarily, but something not changing is the fact The Escape’s half-marathon provides the challenge of an ultramarathon – but without all the distance!

Of course, not everyone is up for running a half-marathon (even ones that aren’t “ultramarathon level” challenging), which makes the 5K and 10K races popular options.

So, what’s new for 2018?

Well, the entrance fees for the 5K and 10K races have been dropped to $30 and $40 (respectively). On top of that, all the races—no matter which distance—are going to have the same finish. Previously, it was just the half-marathon that ended by coming down the sandy hill and returning directly to Silver Saddle Ranch.

If you’ve run in The Escape from Prison Hill in the past, this obviously means the course is going to be different than you remember – so make sure you’re aware of this.

No matter which distance suits you best, one thing is certain – you will want to avoid heel pain during the race and in your training leading up to it!

A potential injury risk that accompanies running—on a trail, track, or even treadmill—is heel pain. Now, running can be a tough physical activity, but it shouldn’t be a painful one. If you have either sharp or dull pain in the bottom or back of the heel, it is a symptom of a medical issue.

The good news about heel pain is that you can come see us here at Sierra Foot & Ankle and we can create a treatment plan for you. The bad news about heel pain is that it even happens in the first place.

Why is heel pain so common for runners?

Heel Pain

There are two major reasons for this. One, you place a lot of physical force on the landing foot when you run (or even when you walk). Sure, our bodies are naturally able to handle this to a certain degree, but overuse pushes the boundaries of what they can handle. (We are, after all, only human!)

Second, there are several injuries and medical conditions that can cause heel pain. These include:

  • Plantar fasciitis – In this condition, the fibrous band of tissue running along the bottom of the foot—the plantar fascia—becomes inflamed because of overuse. You will recognize this injury when you wake up and experience sharp, shooting pain in your heel that accompanies the first steps of the day.
  • Heel bursitisBursae are tiny, fluid-filled sacs that act as protection in various areas of your body where muscles or tendons move, including joints. You also have them in the heel area and when they become inflamed, often on account of overuse or extend periods of pressure, it can be quite painful.
  • Achilles tendinitis – The Achilles tendon is the largest, strongest tendon in the body, but that doesn’t mean it is exempt from injury. On the contrary, Achilles tendinitis—inflammation of this particular tendon—is rather common. Much like plantar fasciitis and heel bursitis, it is caused by overuse, but also when physical activity levels are increased too rapidly.
  • Sever’s disease – Heel pain is not just for older patients. When adolescents, especially ones who are physically active, experience heel pain, it is often Sever’s disease. In this condition, the calcaneus (heel bone) grows faster than supporting tendons, ligaments, and muscles, which forces them to stretch excessively and become painful.


There are going to be times when you need professional treatment—and it’s always a smart idea to come see us for an accurate diagnosis—but certain home care for heel pain will be able to help until your appointment. Some of these include:

  • Rest. Your body is amazingly capable of resolving injuries, but it needs time to do so. If you continue to perform normal tasks, you impede its ability to heal.
  • Stretch. A lot of people who have heel pain do so because of tightness in either their plantar fascia or Achilles tendon. Both essential connective tissues anchor to the heel bone, so this makes complete sense. With that being the case, you can start to relieve tension from tight tissue by keeping them limber with an appropriate stretching regimen. Our office will provide instructions on how to stretch for optimal healing.
  • Medication. Always check with our office for proper dosages and then pick up any recommended pain medications. We may suggest nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine to alleviate pain.
  • Ice. Cover an ice pack with a thin towel—to prevent damaging your skin—and apply to the pained heel three or four times during the day for 15 to 20 minutes per session.
  • Wear appropriate, well-fitting shoes. Too many foot and ankle issues, especially those that cause heel pain, stem from footwear that either isn’t right for the activity being performed or flat out don’t fit properly. Your shoes should cradle your heels snuggly, have room for toes to wiggle, and offer cushioning and arch support. Further, they must fit properly (not too big, not too small).

Our hope is that your condition is not terribly severe and can be resolved with conservative treatment options like these. In many cases, they can. Sometimes, however, patients need more aggressive or advanced care. The best way for you to know what is right for you is to see us here at Sierra Foot & Ankle.

Even better than finding relief from our team is avoiding the problem from happening in the first place.

To that end, there are several measures you can take to reduce your risk of heel pain. One particularly nice thing about this is the fact many preventative measures can be used for several root causes at the same time. So, ones that lower your odds of developing plantar fasciitis also make it less likely you end up with Achilles tendinitis.

Warming Up

As you look to prevent heel pain and decrease your risk of injury, use the following measures:

  • Ease into activity. Too often, patients experience heel pain after starting new activities at too high a level of intensity or duration. Start at an easy-to-moderate level and increase your efforts by no more than 10% every week.
  • Warm up and stretch. Prior to exercise or physical activity, warm up and use dynamic stretching to prepare your body. Give careful attention to your calves, ankles, and feet. Warm up first for a couple of minutes before stretching, as this is proven to be more effective at reducing the risk of injury.
  • Cross-train. Instead of relying solely on high-impact exercises, incorporate low-impact activities like yoga, swimming, bicycling, and walking into your workout routine. Not only will this reduce your risk of heel pain, but it will also lead to greater overall fitness.

Steps to prevent heel pain can make a big difference, but keep in mind they do not eliminate the risk of developing a condition or sustaining an injury.

In the event you do find yourself experiencing sharp or dull pain in either the back or bottom of your heel, come see us at Sierra Foot & Ankle. We will provide a professional diagnosis to make sure the correct injury is being treated.

We want you to get back to your favorite activities at the earliest possible opportunity, so contact us today if you need treatment for heel pain. Call us at (775) 783-8037 and request your appointment with either our Carson City or Gardnerville offices or connect with us online.

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