A common side effect and potential cause of heel pain is the heel spur, a bony growth on the underside of the heel where the Achilles and/or the Plantar tendons connect. The spur, which is most often found in X-rays taken for other symptoms (my case), appears as a bony protrusion that can extend forward as much as half an inch. This calcium deposit is the result of the body attemption to cope with the load and stress that the site is subjected too. When there is no indication of bone enlargement, the condition is sometimes referred to as "heel spur syndrome."
Heel spurs result from strain on the muscles and ligaments of the foot, by stretching of the long band of tissue that connects the heel and the ball of the foot, and by repeated tearing away of the lining or membrane that covers the heel bone. These conditions may be the result of:
- biomechanical imbalance
- running or jogging
- improperly fitted or worn-out shoes
There is a 'chicken or the egg' situation regarding heel spurs. Heel spurs appear to the result of the body attempting to adapt to the stress of the foot. Simultaneously, they may also be the source of additional pain in the heel.
Historically, some doctors attempted to treat the heel pain by removing the heel spur. Some surgeon's believe that theis is only treating the symptom of the injury. Some patients to receive positive results.
I have that, Heel spur I mean. It’s actually not a heel spur in the common sense, as it’s right on the very bottom of the heel, not at the front or back/top of the heel, but for the purposes of this explanation, it’s close enough.
The reason I have the spurs is because I was obese and then when I first started running, I ran with a wicked heel strike. There were points in my training when I couldn’t actually walk down a set of stairs, and I chalked the whole deal up to Plantar Fasciitis. I was wrong.
Did you know the Achilles tendon connects almost all the way on the very bottom of your heel? I didn’t. Now I do. Right at that point where this awesome tendon connects is where I have developed these spurs. Over a LONG time of being overweight and undertall I had been wrecking my heels. THEN when I started running I sped the whole process up.
What does this mean? Well, I will have a heel spur forever, or until it needs to be surgically removed. I hope it doesn’t get so bad that I need surgery (I am a LONG way away from that). It also means I will have some level of discomfort no matter what I do. This isn’t something you can roll out or stretch. It is there. Even when I work my foot on my little rolly pokey ball, I can feel the bumps in each heel, and I have always tried hard to get it to release, never understanding why it wouldn’t budge.
I blamed the whole painful deal, after I started running ,on my shoes/ Orthotics/ different shoes. They weren’t the culprit. I was. More specifically my running style was. I was misinformed/made assumptions about a long stride that only led to the very quick and very painful inflammation of the area directly affected by the Spur. The Achilles/ Plantar and the bottom of the heel.
I went to the Doctor a couple weeks ago for a completely different injury that has healed now due to just resting (Yay). On the X-ray was this heel spur. After explaining everything to me he said to keep running. He also said that if I want to ‘run around like a monkey’ –his words- that is fine too, and that it will probably slow the growth of this spur being I am not running on my heels.
What it comes down to is: The day I took my shoes off and went for a run was a vey good day for me. This decision has allowed me to run relatively pain free (I will always have some pain, the condition is not reversible, and I walk on my heels like most people, even barefooters tend to walk on their heels). I chose to go running barefoot for lots of reasons, the least of not which is the promise of less pain and injuries. What I didn’t know was happening while barefoot running was ever step I took I was extending my running career, not shortening it.
The key piece for me in the whole discovery process is it’s not about barefooting, but it’s about health and running style. Health, because If I wasn’t so obese for so long, I never would have the problem (most likely cause) and Running style, because if I had been taught, or adopted a forefoot strike, I may have avoided the whole mess to begin with, and only had mild pain from time to time (more stretching has helped for sure too!)
Truthfully I am happy my path has led me to barefoot running. There is a LOT of coolness in my my life because of it and it is a big part of my motivation (Can I really do this barefoot?) I have stated that it is just running now, not barefoot running. As far as the basic act of running, this is true, but for the whole Idea of barefoot running, it has changed my entire outlook on running and, really, life in general. I have simplified my running, my thinking and my whole world. This practice of simplifying has a long way to go in my life and I am looking forward to exploring it more.
Thanks Barefoot Running!