If you feel sharp pain in your heel, you may have plantar fasciitis, an overuse injury common among runners, says Dr. Michael Skovdal Rathleff, of Denmark’s Aalborg University. To treat the ailment, the common advice was to stretch the painful tendon and rethink what type of shoe you were running in.
“Research shows those interventions are helpful to some degree,” says Rathleff. “But a large number of our patients would still have pain two years after their initial diagnosis. So we started to think outside the box for new, effective treatments.” Rathleff thought that strength training might be the answer.
He was onto something: In his new study, people who performed slow, weighted heel raises felt more relief in three months than those who only stretched. “There are still a lot of unanswered questions about why high-load strength training may work to relieve plantar fasciitis,” he says. “But we think the exercise may increase collagen production and your Achilles tendon’s ability to handle load.”
Feeling the common running pain? Here’s how to tackle it:
Do calf raises with flexion.
Stand on a padded step or low box.
Balance on the balls of your feet, both heels off the step.
Now take three seconds to rise up on your toes as high as you can.
Slowly lower your heels as low as you can.
That’s 1 rep. Do 8 to 12 every other day.
Once you can do 12, try it with a weighted backpack.