While numerous factors and conditions can lead to foot pain, the most common is heel pain. You may also hear doctors refer to heel pain as heel spur syndrome or plantar fasciitis; however, these conditions can be present with and without an actual bony spur.
However you refer to your heel pain, it is indeed a serious condition sufferers cannot afford to ignore. Just stepping down on the foot, especially first thing in the morning, can cause immediate shooting pain. And pressing harder on a sore heel, the way some do with a foot that's fallen asleep, only worsens painful symptoms.
Heel pain can flare up when the plantar fascia ligament that stretches from the heel to the ball of the foot – which also supports the arch – becomes inflamed. Calcium deposits may eventually form on the heel bone, resulting in mild to serious heel pain when applying pressure on the foot.
Heel spurs and heel pain typically occur in people with flat feet. As the arch starts to collapse, the band of ligament and the muscle in the bottom of the foot absorbs the impact of pressure from standing or walking. Eventually, it stretches beyond its limits, leading to possible muscle tears and bone spurs. To avoid heel pain, people with flat feet should make a special effort to wear support shoes with arch support.
Other causes of heel pain include:
- High arches that pull on the muscles.
- Tight calf muscles caused from poor or little stretching.
- Muscle tension that pulls away a piece of the bone.
Your sore heel is the result of foot muscles tightening up overnight. The tightened muscles accentuate the pull on the heel bone spur and ligaments, or plantar fascia, making your first steps painful. You know you have heel pain if getting out of bed in the morning and stepping down makes you want to yell out. In fact, the medical term for heel pain, post-static dyskinesia, means "pain after rest."
You may also notice symptoms of heel pain when:
- Plunging into exercise without warming up first.
- Moving after any inactivity, such as sitting in a car or at a desk. The initial movement will result in sharp, shooting heel pain, giving you a sore or painful heel.
Taking the pressure off the foot goes a long way in helping improve a painful heel.
Other heel pain treatment / plantar fasciitis treatment techniques include:
- Wearing proper footwear for both everyday and
- Using insoles that support the arch and reduce tension
on the ligament.
- Making use of a heel pad, heel cushion or slight heel lift to relieve pressure and reduce inflammation of the plantar at its attachment to the heel bone.
- Correcting leg length discrepancy via an adjustable heel lift.
- Using a heel cup to add extra shock absorption to shoes, thus reducing pressure on heels.
- Giving the afflicted area an ice massage to reduce inflammation and relieve tension.
- Stretching calf muscle to reduce tightness.
- Maintaining length of the tight calf muscle with the use of a night splint.
In severe and chronic cases, heel spurs may require surgical correction. If heel pain is chronic and persists, see a podiatrist for specific heel pain treatment.
Information on foot, leg and lower body health conditions provided by The Podiatry Institute, dedicated to advancing the standard of care in podiatric medicine and its effects on muscoskeletal health.