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Changing shoes

I usually rotate my running shoes
on a regular basis

One of the ways I have managed my chronically injured heel as I have sought to get running again has been by trying to manage my footwear.

For the past twenty years I have primarily used Nike Pegasus shoes and before that various other Nike shoes, a favourite being the Nike Elite.  I'm not dogmatic about using Nike's, and have occasionally used other brands for various reasons, including New Balance and Brooks shoes for years when they sponsored me in the early 1980s.

One reason Nike shoes has found favour with me is because they have tended to have higher heels with a larger drop between the heel and forefoot.  This decreases the range of Achilles tendon movement and I have always had problems with my Achilles (three operations on the left and one on the right).

However, even wearing the Nikes, my right heel was exceptionally painful a year or so ago, and not just because of Achilles tendonitis.  It was also highly sensitive to touch, often with searing hot pain on the surface of the back of the heel, even when just lying in bed, and there was a dull deep pain under the heel.

I have got back to running, despite medical advice that the heel was just worn out, by trying to treat all three problems after initially having nearly six months off running in the hope rest would fix it.  I'm sure the rest did help, but the methods below also made a big difference when I resumed trying to run.

The Nike Elite was my favourite training shoe for many years

Firstly, I decided to raise the heel even further, and after experimenting with various brands of heel raises found some hard 6mm raises that self-glue onto the heel of the shoe under the insole.  This means that my heel drop has gone from the standard Nike Pegasus drop of 12mm to 18mm, not ideal because it places extra strain on the tendon under the foot, risking plantar fasciitis, but workable for me.

Secondly, I decided I needed to reduce pressure on the heel from the shoe and increased my shoes size by a half and tried some shoes that gripped differently on the heel.  After research I found the New Balance 880v4 had the same heel drop as the Nike Pegasus (12mm) and I tried running in them for a change.  I also tied the shoe on my right foot exceptionally loosely (the usual test being the ability to put two fingers between the shoe and my heel) and got in the habit of smearing vaseline on the back of the heel to reduce friction.  It felt strange at first and my foot has come out of the shoe while running on a couple of occasions, not to mention more debris finding its way into the shoe during trail runs, but it's manageable.

Thirdly, I rested the underneath of the heel, which felt deeply bruised, by modifying my running style to favour the heel and try to avoid unnecessary pounding, particularly down hills.

Over time, the heel pain has generally diminished, though always there.  To reduce the chances of recurrence, I have also bought some larger Nike Pegasus shoes and now alternate so the shoe grip pressure changes regularly.

My latest heel pain setback occurred wearing the New Balance, so I am wearing the Nike more often, though still changing every couple of days.  This morning, after four or five days of New Balance, I switched to the Nikes for my short 6.5km run, and the pain was much reduced from yesterday.  Enough to convince me that I can get around the Deep Space Mountain Marathon on Sunday.  It's a two-lap course, so I can always pull out after one if the heel is bad.