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Running Injury : Plantar Fasciitis, the Advantages of Gel Heel Pads

by Jane Hodgson 18 February 2011


Plantar fasciitis is the most common running injury affecting the foot. Research shows that silicone gel pads, especially if their use is combined with a programme of stretching and eccentric exercises, frequently reduces the pain from plantar fasciitis.

Plantar Fasciitis is a common cause of pain under the heel of the foot.  A problem for many impact sport players, plantar fasciitis is a particular issue in middle to long distance runners, with some studies showing that it is the most common foot injury in runners, affecting at some point 8% of all regular participants.

An overuse injury that usually causes pain deep within the pad of the heel other symptoms of plantar fasciitis include exquisite pain on the first few steps in the morning or after rest, and pain on impact such as running.

Various treatments have been suggested to treat plantar fasciitis including: orthotics, ultrasound therapy, shock wave therapy, calf stretches, night splints and eccentric exercises.

The Evidence for Using Gel pads to Treat Plantar Fasciitis Running Injury

Silicone gel pads are small cushions that fit under the heel, and on top of the normal insole in most shoes.

The idea of using a silicone gel pad is that it absorbs some of the shock that is passed through the foot every time the foot hits the floor when walking or running. Several pieces of research have shown that using silicone gel pads helps to reduce the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

One such piece of work was published in "Foot and Ankle International" in 2002. It looked at 236 people with plantar fasciitis who were split into 5 groups. One group was given stretches, one group silicone gel pads, one group a felt pad to put in the shoe, one group a rubber heel cup and a final group were given individually made orthotics. Eight weeks later the group who had the silicone heel pads had the greatest amount of improvement, with 95% of people in this group reporting that their pain was reduced.

The effectiveness of all the treatments was improved when combined with a programme of stretching exercises.

Purchasing Silicone Heel Pads

A pair of silicone heel pads are relatively inexpensive, generally costing around £20. Even if the plantar fasciitis only affects one foot, gel heel pads should be used in both shoes otherwise one leg is effectively longer that the other and problems may well occur at the pelvis or lower back.

 Silicone gel heel pads are available at physiosupplies.

Research suggests that a combination of gel pads with a programme of stretches and eccentric exercises will produce the best results.


Disclaimer: The information on this page is written to help you understand your injury. There are several possible causes for heel pain and should you have any concerns you should always seek advice from a qualified health professional such as a Chartered Physiotherapist or your GP.

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About the author

Jane Hodgson - Chartered Physiotherapist Jane Hodgson Jane specialises in lower body injuries and has raced competitively in running, orienteering and adventure racing.

Did you know

Plantar fasciitis is the most common running injury affecting the foot

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