Heel pain is the most common ailment affecting the foot. In fact, a single mile of walking puts 60 tons of stress on each foot. Now that you know you’re not alone in your struggle against heel pain, this page will help you fully understand the symptoms, causes, risk factors and treatment options.
What Is Heel Pain?
You now know that heel pain is extremely common, but sometimes it can be difficult to determine if what you’re experiencing is truly heel pain or pain associated with another part of the foot. Simply put, heel pain is any condition in which weight on the heel of the foot causes extreme discomfort. The pain can range from aching or dull to debilitating. Severe heel pain can make performing average daily routines unbearable.
Symptoms of Heel Pain
The foot is composed of more than 100 tendons, 33 joints and 26 bones. The heel bone is the largest of all 26 bones in the foot. The following are a few heel pain symptoms that signal it’s time to seek treatment:
- Severe pain in the heel of the foot
- Swelling or redness of the heel
- An inability to walk or perform daily tasks due to heel pain
- Pain that starts suddenly in the morning or after a long amount of rest
Causes and Risk Factors
Heel pain can stem from a number of foot issues, but the two most common heel pain causes are plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. Plantar fasciitis occurs when pressure affects the main ligament — the plantar fascia — that stretches through the heel, ball and arch of the foot. This is the ligament that bears your weight and absorbs the impact from several hours of walking, standing or exercising. Plantar fasciitis can also be the result of overpronation, also known as “flat feet.”
Other common heel pain causes include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Achilles tendinitis: An injury of the Achilles tendon — the tissue connecting the lower leg calf muscles to the heel — due to overuse.
- Achilles tendon rupture: The tearing of the Achilles tendon, partially or completely.
- Bursitis: When the fluid-filled sacs (known as bursae) that cushion the muscles, tendons and bones near the joints become inflamed.
- Fracture: A broken bone in the foot.
- Sprains or strains: Sprains and strains of the foot muscles or tendons typically result from physical activity and can range from minor to extremely painful.
Pain in the heel of the foot isn't something that should be overlooked. When early signs of heel pain are ignored, the pain may become chronic and result in more serious or prolonged injuries.
Heel Pain Treatment Options
Surgery is rarely necessary for the treatment of heel pain. In many cases, relief can be found by using a few noninvasive heel pain remedies:
- Rest: Like most injuries, the first heel pain solution is to take pressure off the foot and heel. Rest allows the plantar fascia ligament to repair itself and eventually “bounce back.”
- Stretch: Perform simple foot stretches to promote flexibility in the plantar fascia ligament and its nearby tissues and muscles. This will strengthen your arch, so it can withstand more stress and impact.
- Support: Many orthotic inserts are designed specifically for people with flat feet or plantar fascia issues. Supports can raise the arch, so it can better withstand weight and impact. The extra cushion also reduces pressure to provide heel pain relief.
- Try the Spara Podiatry Massage Tool: The Spara tool is a revolutionary treatment strategy that combines the benefits of massage therapy and cryotherapy to reduce inflammation and plantar fascia pain. Keep one ball in the freezer and the other ball on the provided track. Place the track on a solid surface and apply pressure with the foot pressed against the ball, rolling it back and forth. Use the room-temperature ball in the morning, and the frozen (or iced) ball for five to 10 minutes after strenuous activity or before bed.
Heel pain is never something that should be ignored, but with plenty of rest, stretching and daily use of the Spara tool, your immobilizing pain can lessen and eventually disappear.