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A bruised heel, also known and Policeman's Heel is a contusion or bruising to the tissues under the heel causing pain.
A bruised heel is usually caused by overuse such as repetitive bounding, long distance running or landing heavily on the heel. The heel bone or calcaneus bone as it is called is protected by a pad of fatty tissue. Repeated pounding of the heel can cause the fat pad to flatten and be displaced up the side of the heel leaving a thinner protective layer which may result in bruising of the bone and pain.
Treatment of a bruised heel
What can the athlete do about heel pain?
Rest until there is no more pain. This is the most important element of treatment as continuing to walk or run on the injured foot will not allow the injury to heal.
Wear soft trainers with lots of cushioning or pad the heel of shoes with shock absorbing insoles or heel pads. These should be worn in both shoes, even if only one heel is bruised. Wearing a raise in only one shoe causes a leg length difference which can cause other problems.
Replace running shoes if they are old. A running shoe is designed to last for around 400 miles of running. After this the mid soles are weakened through use.
What can a professional do?
A sports injury professional will confirm the diagnosis. View our video on heel pain from sports podiatrist Ian Sadler. They can advise on insoles, orthotics or heel pads to protect the fat pad in the heel and correct any biomechanical problems of the foot.
Tape the heel to provide pain relief and compress the soft tissue under the heel giving more protection to the bone.
Bruised heel recovery time
If you catch heel pain early and rest then it should recover quite quickly within a few days. If the first onset of pain is ignored and the fat pad gets damaged beyond easy repair then this is a very difficult injury to treat.
Rest means rest and there is no point you stopping running for a week if you put up scaffolding for a living and are on your feet every day. If you have to be on your feet then ensure you put a shock absorbing and cushioning heel insert into your shoes and tape the heel for additional protection.