Get excited about cycling! This week is National Bike Week! As The League of American Bicyclists explains, this is “a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling—and encourage more folks to give biking a try.” This year’s emphasis is on biking to work, so the league particularly encourages you to pedal professionally. Of course, bicycling provides excellent exercise, gives you a chance to spend some time outdoors, and can save on gas, but it can be tough on your feet. In some cases, bicyclists’ heels take the brunt of this activity. In celebration of National Bike Week, Austin podiatrist, Dr. Jeffery LaMour, is here to help you address heel pain while cycling. Read on to find out how you can enjoy this special week while protecting your heels from harm!
How Can Biking Affect the Heel?
Riding a bike involves moving your legs and feet in ways you might not regularly. This can put your heel at an odd angle. In addition, the repetitive action of pedaling can put undue pressure on your feet. When riding a bike, you can stretch and impact your heels and the surrounding tissue.
According to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (or, the AAPSM), cycling can lead to Achilles tendinitis: “irritation and inflammation of the tendon that attaches to the back of the heel bone can be caused by improper pedaling, seat height, lack of a proper warmup, or overtraining.” The Achilles tendon spans from the calf to the heel. If it becomes swollen, stretched, or otherwise damaged, this can cause heel pain. The AAPSM advises that Achilles tendinitis “can be treated with ice, rest, aspirin, or other anti-inflammatory medications. Chronic pain or any swelling should be professionally evaluated.” If you are suffering from symptoms of Achilles tendinitis after biking, we recommend that you see Dr. LaMour for a professional diagnosis and customized treatment plan. This could include a regimen of special stretches, custom-fit orthotics, medications, and other therapies.
Pedaling with Plantar Fasciitis
Biking can also lead to a common condition called plantar fasciitis. Livestrong explains, “The plantaris muscle is a small, thin ankle muscles that attaches to the inner, or medial aspect of the heel bone. It assists the larger calf muscles in flexing the ankle downward and works to increase lower leg proprioception, or the body’s awareness of where it’s at in nature.” This area becomes particularly vulnerable during rigorous bicycling. Livestrong goes on: “Incorrect pedaling technique and poor body mechanics are the source of the plantaris muscle creating heel pain from bike riding.” Plantar fasciitis is the number one reason for pain in the heel, whether on or off of a bicycle. Fortunately, similar to Achilles tendinitis, we can usually help you treat it with ice, stretching, physical therapy, orthotics, and anti-inflammatory medications.
Especially if you’re hopping back on the bike for the first time in awhile for National Bike Week, it’s important to do so cautiously. If you ride over some rough ground or lose your balance, you could fracture one of the bones in your heel, pull a muscle, or injure your heel in some other way. Fortunately, if you are suffering from heel pain due to a bicycling sports injury, Dr. LaMour and our team can help. We will examine your foot carefully, diagnose the trauma, and design a treatment plan to have you back on your bike in no time.
Have Healthier Heels!
Whether or not you’re partaking in National Bike Week (and we hope you do!), it’s important to take care of your feet. Contact our Austin podiatry practice today to learn more and schedule an appointment with Dr. LaMour.