Today on the Doc On The Run Podcast, we’re talking about aching pain in the heels from standing at a desk during the pandemic.
Now, I just did a telemedicine call with a runner who had a very interesting complaint. This was heel pain and heel pain in itself is not really interesting, because most of the people who get heel pain have plantar fasciitis, but this was one of those cases where somebody had heel pain that was not plantar fasciitis, and was definitely something else. Now, I actually had this exact same problem myself during the last year.
I work at a standing desk, I record podcasts at a standing desk, I do Zoom calls with all kinds of people, all kinds of different meetings. I have recordings on different webinar formats where I’m lecturing at medical conferences remotely during the pandemic, and I do lots of consultations online while I am standing at a desk.
Now, some days, I’m actually standing at the desk for 12 hours or more. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen, and I have hardwood floors in the home, and those hardwood floors are not really what your feet are designed for. And so, when you stand in one place in front of a camera, which makes it worse, particularly if you’re lecturing, or you’re doing a Zoom call, or something like that, where you’re trying to stay stationary for your web camera, well, that can actually make you stay a lot longer than normal in the same position.
Now, most of the time I wear socks, but I don’t wear shoes when I’m standing at my desk and I’m working at home, but what has happened to me is the same thing that actually happened to this runner who called in.
Now, the pain that was in the heels was sort of a weird achy sensation. It didn’t hurt all the time, but he actually noticed that when he was sitting with his feet on the floor, like watching television, it would start to bother him. Well, plantar fasciitis never, ever does that. The other thing that’s unusual, it was in both feet, and both feet don’t usually develop heel pain at the same time.
Most people who get plantar fasciitis, or bursitis, or a partial rupture of the plantar fascia, or even a stress fracture in the heel bone, they generally get it only in one foot, but this pain was pretty much the same in both feet. Now, that can happen just from compressing nerves, and you do have a bunch of nerves that are in your feet and ankles, of course, and you have little bitty ones that run all over the place that provide sensation to the skin, but you have a couple of larger ones that are between the skin and the bottom of your heel bone.
Well, your heel bone is very hard, so if you’re standing barefoot on hardwood floors or tile floors, and you’re not wearing anything to cushion it, and if you stand still, you can actually get mechanical irritation of the nerve from compression of the nerves on the bottom of the heel, and it will form this irritable swelling around the nerve that makes it do some strange things.
It’s not necessarily pain that’s killing you, but it is sort of a weird aching sensation, sometimes it’s described as a burning sensation or a tingling sensation, but that weird constant aching is often from irritation of those nerves.
Now, the fix for this is really simple. Start wearing running shoes or some recovery sandals, something that’s soft and cushy. You can even buy mats that are made specifically for you to stand in front of a desk that actually have undulations and irregularities that spread out the pressure more.
But standing in one spot, particularly with hardwood floors underneath you, is not really good for your feet. So this was a simple fix. It didn’t require anything complicated to fix it, but you have to be aware that if you have something that is unusual, then it probably is something that needs attention.
So talk to an expert, schedule a telemedicine visit, go see somebody who’s an expert on running injuries, but make sure that you get the help you need, so you can get back to running as quickly as possible.