Common Causes of Heel Pain and How to Avoid Them

Heel pain is a common ailment that can affect individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Whether you’re an athlete, a seasoned runner, or someone who spends long hours on your feet, heel pain can be an annoying and sometimes debilitating issue. In this blog, we will delve into the origins of heel pain, its associated symptoms, common causes, prevention strategies, effective treatments, and, most importantly, when it’s time to seek professional help. 

With this blog, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of heel pain and how to manage it effectively.

Where Does Heel Pain Come From?

Heel pain typically originates from the underside of the heel and may extend towards the arch of the foot. It can manifest suddenly or develop gradually over time, leading to varying degrees of discomfort. While the exact cause of heel pain can differ from one person to another, understanding the symptoms associated with it can provide vital insights.

Legs of a woman removing heels

What Are the Symptoms Associated with Heel Pain?

  • Sharp or Stabbing Pain: Many individuals experience sharp or stabbing pain under the heel, especially when taking their first steps in the morning or after extended periods of rest.
  • Tenderness: The heel area can become tender to the touch, making it uncomfortable to apply pressure to it.
  • Swelling and Redness: Inflammation can lead to swelling and redness around the affected area, exacerbating the discomfort.
  • Difficulty Walking: Heel pain may impede your ability to walk comfortably or engage in your regular activities.

The Common Causes of Heel Pain

Let’s explore some of the most prevalent causes of heel pain:

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, affecting millions of individuals. It occurs when the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot, becomes inflamed or irritated. Prolonged standing, wearing unsupportive footwear, or abruptly increasing physical activity can contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis.

Achilles Tendinitis

Achilles tendinitis is another common source of heel pain. It occurs when the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, becomes inflamed. Overuse or the sudden initiation of intense physical activity can strain the Achilles tendon, leading to pain and stiffness in the back of the heel.

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the heel bone (calcaneus) caused by repetitive strain and overuse. Athletes, particularly runners, and individuals who engage in high-impact activities are more susceptible to stress fractures.

Heel Bursitis

Heel bursitis occurs when the bursa, a small sac of fluid located between the heel bone and the Achilles tendon, becomes inflamed. Repetitive pressure and friction on the bursa, often from wearing poorly fitting shoes, can lead to heel bursitis.

Retrocalcaneal Bursitis

This condition is similar to heel bursitis but specifically affects the bursa located behind the Achilles tendon. Activities that put excess strain on this area can lead to inflammation and pain.

Woman walking on soft white carpet at home, closeup

Ways to Avoid These Issues and Heel Pain

  • Proper Footwear: Choosing shoes with adequate arch support and cushioning is essential for reducing the risk of developing heel pain. Well-fitted, supportive shoes can help distribute the pressure evenly across your feet.
  • Gradual Activity Increase: If you’re starting a new exercise regimen or increasing your physical activity, do so progressively to prevent overloading your heel. Gradual adaptation gives your feet time to adjust.
  • Stretching: Incorporating regular stretching and flexibility exercises for the calf muscles and plantar fascia can help prevent heel pain. Stretching can improve the elasticity of these structures and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight can place additional stress on the feet, increasing the likelihood of heel pain. Maintaining a healthy weight can alleviate this strain and reduce the risk of developing painful conditions.

Ways to Treat Heel Pain if it Does Arise

  • Rest: If you suspect you have heel pain, one of the first and most crucial steps is to give your feet a break. Reducing physical activity and avoiding excessive pressure on the affected heel can help the healing process.
  • Ice and Elevation: Applying ice and elevating the affected heel can help reduce inflammation. Icing for 15-20 minutes several times a day can be effective, and elevating your foot above heart level can further minimize swelling.
  • Orthotics: Custom-made can provide better arch support and alleviate pain. These can help distribute pressure more evenly and reduce stress on the plantar fascia.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce pain and inflammation. It’s important to use these medications according to the recommended dosage and guidelines.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapists can recommend specific exercises and techniques to improve the strength and flexibility of the foot and lower leg. Physical therapy can be particularly beneficial for conditions like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: In some cases, our experienced team may recommend corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation and provide temporary relief from heel pain. 
  • Radial Pulsewave Therapy: Experience the relief offered by EPAT, a gentle and non-invasive shockwave therapy that not only accelerates healing by 50% but also has a success rate of over 80% in alleviating the pain associated with heel discomfort. 

When Is It Time to Schedule an Appointment with a Healthcare Professional?

While self-care measures can be effective for managing mild heel pain, there are instances where professional medical intervention is necessary. If your heel pain persists despite self-care measures or worsens over time, it’s essential to contact our office. Additionally, seek medical attention if you experience:

  • Severe pain, swelling, or bruising.
  • Difficulty walking or putting weight on the affected foot.
  • Pain that radiates up the leg or feels unusual.
  • Signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, or discharge from the affected area.

Contact Us

If you are experiencing persistent heel pain and need professional guidance or treatment, do not hesitate to contact us. Our team of experienced podiatrists specializes in the diagnosis and management of various heel-related conditions. We are here to help you find relief and get back to your regular activities pain-free.

Please contact our office, and our friendly staff will be happy to assist you in scheduling an appointment or answering any questions you may have. Don’t let heel pain disrupt your life any longer – take the first step towards a pain-free future by reaching out to us today.