Making Decisions About Home Care

Tips To Avoid Heel Pain When Hiking

by Mae Ferguson

As an active hiker, heel pain can be a major red flag that something is majorly amiss with your main mode of transportation. The cause is often plantar fasciitis – the inflammation of the tissues that connect your heel to your toes. Untreated, it can make it nearly impossible to walk. The following tips can help you prevent heel pain on your hikes.

Tip #1: Switch shoes

It's become popular in recent years to hike in lightweight shoes or trail runners. While these are suitable for relatively flat and smooth trails, they can lead to heel pain on rocky and irregular trails. A hiking boot or shoe with a stiffer sole will protect your feet from the vagaries of the trail surface so that the tissues in the foot aren't being forced to mold to an unnatural shape with each step. On heavily rocky trails, consider boots with a rock plate in the sole for even more protection.

Tip #2: Get custom insoles

Your podiatrist can map your foot and see where the hot spots are. These are the spots where you are placing much of your weight. Ideally, the weight should be relatively evenly distributed across the foot, as putting too much weight on just the heel, toes, or arch can lead to plantar fasciitis. Once your foot is mapped, your podiatrist can recommend the right insole or even have one custom made to your foot and hiking shoe, which can help you hike without pain.

Tip #3: Wear compression sleeves

A compression sleeve goes over your sock, wrapping tightly around your foot so that the tissues are less likely to suffer strain. These sleeves work well for hikers because they are relatively lightweight and they fit into most shoes. Just keep in mind that you will want to take breaks throughout the day to remove the sleeve and air your feet, or the extra sweat and moisture may lead to increased blistering.

Tip #4: Stretch daily

Before beginning your hike each day, spend a few minutes stretching your feet. To do this on the trail, find a relatively flat area to sit down. Sit with one knee bent so you can grasp your toes and the ball of your foot. Keep your heel on the ground and pull your toes toward you, stretching the arch of your foot. Hold this for about 10 to 15 seconds, then repeat on the other foot. Alternate feet for about three stretches each. You don't want to over-stretch your foot, so stop if you feel any pain.

For more help determining if you should see a podiatrist, check out a website like