Maybe, like our own Dr. Lind, you’re an avid hockey player. Or perhaps you like to head up the slopes on the weekend for some skiing or snowboarding. And of course, there are plenty of runners out there who actually enjoy the brisk temperatures for their workouts!
We love winter sports, and we love that our patients are active. That said, it’s important to remember that heel pain never goes out of season. In fact, many of our athletic and active patients struggle with it even more during the colder months than they do the rest of the year.
Let’s talk a little bit about some of the challenges.
You wouldn’t necessarily think of hockey and skating as being especially tough on the heels. But for many players, this couldn’t be further from the truth—just ask Dr. Lind!
One heel pain problem in particular that’s associated with hockey is called Haglund’s deformity. This condition is sometimes popularly known as “pump bump,” after the style of women’s shoes. But it might as well be called “skate bump” or “Bauer bump,” because it’s also very common in hockey players for many of the same reasons!
Haglund’s deformity is a large, bony bump that builds up slowly along the back of the heel, near where the Achilles tendon inserts into the heel bone. As the deposits increase in size, the bump may become more and more painful, and make it difficult to wear skates (or even normal shoes) comfortably.
The main culprit is wearing any kind of footwear with extremely hard, unforgiving backs / heel counters. Ice skates are, of course, notorious for this.
If you find that your skates are irritating your heels, the most likely problem is that they’re not the right size—probably too small. You should always make sure your skates fit your feet well. Also, check the padding along the heel counter and make sure it’s providing good cushioning for the back of your feet! You might also consider wearing orthotics or using heel lifts in your skates.
Also, while in general most footwear should feel comfortable even when brand new and shouldn’t need to be broken in, ice skates are a bit of an exception. Go easy the first two or three times you hit the ice after buying new skates to avoid excessive soreness and test to make sure they really are comfortable. You really, really don’t want to go full speed in a stiff, ill-fitting pair of skates!
One more quick tip about skates, not necessarily related to heel pain. While finding a boot that fits properly is obviously very important, don’t forget to lace it correctly! Skates that are laced too loose are an obvious problem, but too tight (especially up near the neck) can lead to lace bite, a painful aggravation of the extensor hallucis longus tendon that causes pain all the way across the front of the shin and top of the foot.
Winter Footwear and Heel Pain
Just like ill-fitting ice skates can cause heel pain (and other injuries) for hockey players, ill-fitting boots, trail running shoes, and other athletic footwear can be a problem for winter athletes.
That’s true all year long, of course. But the problem is sometimes magnified in winter, since cold-weather outdoor gear tends to be optimized for warmth and waterproofing rather than comfort and support.
Whether it’s 70 and sunny or the ground is covered in slush and snow, you need good arch support and cushioning under your feet if you want to avoid constant heel pain problems.
Often, a good pair of orthotics can go a long way toward solving this kind of issue. We’d also recommend that you avoid spending all day in bulky boots if you don’t have to—bring a pair of comfortable shoes to switch into when you head inside for a break.
Even for people who are generally quite active, winter is often the slowest period of the year. If the weather is particularly nasty, or you’re between rec league seasons, you might spend a couple of weeks (or more) mostly on the couch, not keeping up with your typical in-season diet or exercise routines.
This can cause problems if, after a long sedentary period, you rush too quickly into intense sports activity. Similar to how “weekend warriors” are more susceptible to injury if they don’t stay active during the workweek, winter warriors put their bodies at risk if they try to make up for “hibernation time” with too much, too soon competitive activity.
It’s important—for everyone, not just athletes—to condition themselves properly and get a balanced amount of exercise throughout the week, regardless of the weather or time of year. Even if going outside looks like a dicey proposition, you can still stretch, do some cardio, and get the blood flowing from the safety of the great indoors.
This is, of course, on top of all the other things you should already be doing each time you exercise, such as:
- Wearing proper shoes and safety gear
- Warm up before exercising
- Cool down after exercising
- Stay properly hydrated
Keep Your Heels Happy This Winter!
Our goal, as always, is to keep you healthy and active all year long, so you can enjoy all the winter (and summer!) activities you love.
If you find you’re still struggling with heel pain despite following the tips above, make sure you give the FASA team a call so we can help. Often, after carefully evaluating the specifics of your condition, we can recommend home care procedures and stretching to help you ease your pain.
And for those cases that are more stubborn, we can offer advanced solutions like custom orthotics and laser therapy, or refer you to one of our on-staff physical or massage therapists.
Heel pain is never normal, and almost always treatable through non-surgical methods. So don’t wait any longer to get the help you need! You can call (360) 754-3338 to schedule an appointment at any of our convenient locations, or request an appointment online using our web contact form.