Find out how to treat and prevent stress fractures in your heels.
The problem: Stress Fracture
What it is: Tiny cracks in your heel bone, usually on the bottom or sides. “It’s an overuse injury to the bone,” says Dr. Matzkin.
Probable cause: Too much walking, running or other weight-bearing activity without proper conditioning, especially on hard surfaces, and wearing shoes without adequate cushioning. Hardcore runners who suddenly up their mileage, weekend warriors who cram a week’s worth of exercise into a Saturday afternoon session, and out-of-shape people who do more than they’re used to are equally at risk. “I’ve had patients go to Europe and suddenly walk 10 hours per day for five days,” says Dr. Baravarian. “They return home with a stress fracture.”
Telltale symptoms: Severe swelling and pain, especially when you walk.
Prevention 101: Build activity slowly. “Adding stress slowly to your heel bone allows it to mineralize and become stronger,” Dr. Baravarian says. When you exercise, wear athletic shoes with cushioning and motion control. (Buy new shoes when the cushioning wears down, roughly every 6 months.) For garden-variety walking, wear street shoes with a rubber sole and good shock absorption.
Treatment: If you’re diagnosed with a stress fracture, you’ll need to wear a walking boot or cast for four to six weeks. It’ll take another six weeks or so to return to normal activity.