Whereas we treat patients for many different foot and ankle conditions here at Wisconsin Foot Center, one of the most common problems is heel pain. This can certainly be attributed to the fact there are several different potential root causes of this pain, including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, Sever’s disease, and stress fractures.
No matter which condition is affecting you, be sure to come in and see Dr. Andrew Marso for the effective foot care you need!
Why You Have Heel Pain
We all take it for granted, but feet face a lot of pressure. In addition to supporting our bodyweight when standing, which can be more taxing in and of itself than you likely realize, walking and running increase the amount of physical forces placed on the lower limbs. Your heels can face forces up to four times your bodyweight when you jog or run!
When it comes to the various causes of heel pain, some of the more common ones include:
- Plantar fasciitis. The leading cause of heel pain for adults, this condition develops when the plantar fascia—a fibrous band of tissue running along the bottom of the foot—sustains tears on account of excessive stress. It is common to have sharp, intense pain in the bottom of the heel, particularly following sleep or extended periods of rest or inactivity.
- Sever’s disease. Plantar fasciitis is the most common source of heel pain for adults, but this is the leading cause for adolescents. When the lower limbs are developing, the heel bone can sometimes reach physical maturity before the Achilles tendon. This causes pulling in the back of the heel, and the pain is often increased with physical activity.
- Achilles tendinitis. When intense physical activity is suddenly performed, or the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed due to overuse, you can develop pain in the back of the heel. You will find this to be strongest during and following physical activity.
There are other causes of heel pain—like heel bone fractures, bursitis, and heel spurs—but the common thread binding all of these conditions is the fact you should seek treatment. Doing so will not only relieve existing symptoms, but also help prevent long-term issues.
Heel Pain Treatment and Prevention
The good news when it comes to treating cases of heel pain is that conservative options are usually able to effectively address the root cause of the pain.
One nonsurgical option Dr. Marso may include in your treatment plan is the use of orthotic devices. Orthotics are versatile medical equipment that may be used for an array of potential foot and ankle conditions. They come in both custom and over-the-counter options, and Dr. Marso’s recommendation for which is best for you will depend on an array of factors.
Besides orthotics, your heel pain may be relieved with the use of strapping or padding techniques or a referral for physical therapy. For some patients, Dr. Marso may prescribe cortisone injections to relieve pain caused by inflamed soft tissue.
Whereas the vast majority of heel pain cases can be treated conservatively, there are also cases which are best resolved with surgical care. In such instances, Dr. Marso will discuss your options, let you know what to expect from every step of the procedure—including pre- and post-surgical care—and answer any questions you might have.
Naturally, the best form of treatment is to prevent a condition from developing in the first place. The good news is that most of the common causes of heel pain are fairly preventable. Measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing heel pain include:
- Wearing proper footwear. There are two different ways of looking at proper footwear in this regard. The first is simply making sure you have the right shoes for the sports and exercises you do. More than simply “wearing running shoes if you run often,” always pick footwear that fits correctly and has a solid construction. You need to wear pairs that have ample cushioning and arch support.
Beyond shoes for physical activities, you need to make sure you limit the amount of time you spend wearing high-heeled shoes. Pumps and stilettos may look cute, but they cause excessive tension on connective tissues in your feet and lower legs (due to the elevated position of your heels). If you wear these kinds of shoes for work, consider wearing more-sensible models on your way to and from the office.
- Easing into physical activity. When you are starting a new running or exercise program, you need to give your body some time to adjust to the increased forces you are placing on it. This is especially true for your feet and ankles. It’s easy to take this for granted, but we all place tremendous amounts of force on our lower limbs (even just walking places at least two times your bodyweight in force on your foot when it lands!).
To keep your lower limbs safe, start any new workout program at an easy level and then slowly ramp up your intensity and duration over time. A good target is about a 10% increase per week. Doing more than that increases your injury risk.
- Stretching. Before any individual workout session or athletic activity, take about 5-10 minutes for a proper warmup, followed by some dynamic stretches targeting the muscles you are going to use. This is a smart approach to prepare your body for the activity you are about to perform. There are many injuries that could be prevented by warming up and stretching first.
- Cross-training. Running is a great exercise and playing sports like basketball or tennis on a regular basis can help keep you in shape. Of course, these kinds of activities place a lot of force on your lower limbs. Instead of running six days a week or only relying on basketball for your fitness, mix in a couple of sessions of yoga, cycling, swimming, or even walking to reduce the total amount of physical stress on your feet and heels.
The Professional Foot Care You Need
The best way to know exactly why your heel hurts and what needs to be done about it is coming in so we can evaluate the problem for you. Foot pain is something that should not be ignored, so make sure you contact Wisconsin Foot Center for the expert diagnosis and treatment you need. Call our Hales Corner, WI office at (414) 425-8400 or contact us online.