Steps to Overcoming Your Heel Pain

Are your heels hurting? The statistics say there is a good chance. According to a recent survey from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), heel pain is the foot ailment that affects Americans most—16 percent of the population regularly experiences it.

When you pound your feet on hard surfaces while playing sports, or wear shoes that irritate sensitive tissues, you can develop heel pain. Many people try to ignore the early signs of heel pain and keep performing the activities that are causing the problem. But when you continue to use a sore heel, it can quickly get worse and become a chronic condition, leading to more problems.

While it is a common misconception that heel spurs are to blame, the most frequent cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. With this condition, too much running or jumping can lead to inflammation of the tissue band (fascia) connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes. The pain is generally centered under the heel and may be mild at first, but tends to flare up when you take your first steps after getting up in the morning, or resting for a period of time. Plantar fasciitis is often successfully treated with custom orthotics, injections, prescription medications, physical therapy and immobilization. However, the longer you have untreated pain, the more difficult it is to find relief.

There are other causes of heel pain, however. Other possible causes can include:

  • Achilles Tendinitis. This condition is often caused by tight calf muscles, bone spurs, age, injury and primary tendonitis. If left untreated, this can also develop into tendon rupturing and a more chronic problem called tendonosis, which involves adhesions and scar tissue formation.
  • Fat Pad Thinning. Age, obesity and walking on hard surfaces can all cause fat pad thinning, which occurs on the fleshy ball of the heel of the foot. Treatments for the condition may include soft insoles and soft-soled shoes prescribed by a podiatrist.

“Heel pain is generally the result of faulty biomechanics that place too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues that attach to it,” said Dr. Ronald D. Jensen, APMA president. “If pain and other symptoms of inflammation—redness, swelling, heat—persist, you should limit normal daily activities and contact a podiatric physician immediately.”

To avoid heel pain, always wear shoes that fit well and wear the proper shoes for each activity, not wearing shoes with excessive or unevenly worn heels or soles, and stretch the heel well before exercising. Fortunately, if detected early, heel pain can be successfully treated with several noninvasive treatment options.

Source: American Podiatric Medical Association