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Should I exercise with heel pain?

23rd August 2022

Should I exercise with heel pain?

Maintaining a physically active lifestyle is important to our health and wellbeing.  Heel pain can often limit the amount of physical activity we are doing. 

But is safe to keep exercising with heel pain?

In most cases, heel pain is due to the chronic degeneration of the plantar fascia which reduces our ability to tolerate loads (ie. the plantar fascia is not strong enough to handle the daily loads (work/daily activities/exercise) currently being placed on it).  General exercise and specific strengthening exercises can improve the load tolerance of the plantar fascia.

Initially you may need to reduce activities such as running, walking and jumping activities if they are causing increased pain until you have improved your load tolerance.  Then you can gradually introduce these activities as your tolerance improves.  This is referred to as gradual progression.  It may also be necessary to avoid explosive activities such as fast walking or fast running (speed intervals, fartlek intervals, sprint sessions), running/walking up inclines, and plyometric activities like jumping, skipping, box jumps etc as these types of activities can generate higher loads, which may overload the plantar fascia.

  • Monitoring your activity with a step counter (pedometer) or exercise diary can be helpful to make sure you aren’t progressing too quickly.
  • If running or walking is causing too much pain, consider substituting for alternative forms of exercise such as bike riding, swimming, or weight training.
  • If you have heel pain and are not currently walking or running for exercise, then adding that extra load would not be recommended until your load tolerance increases.

If you currently suffer heel pain then having pain during exercise should be expected, but how do you know if it’s too much?

Generally, heel pain that is less than 4/10 during exercise is okay, as is pain that “warms up”.  Increased pain after exercise is also okay if it recovers within 24 hours.  Therefore...stop exercising if pain increases during exercise (worsens rather than warms up), if it is greater than 4/10 or if pain worsens after exercise AND does not recover within 24 hours.


If in doubt, talk to our local Townsville Podiatrists about the appropriate type of exercise that you can do, so that a plan can be put in place that’s specific to your pain and your goals.
Book a Biomechanical Assessment with Foundation Podiatry today!

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