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What Causes Heel Pain?

by | Sep 29, 2020

Just knowing you have heel pain isn’t always enough information to treat it effectively. Often, we must get to the root of what is causing that heel pain in order to address it properly and keep the problem from returning.

This is because “heel pain” is not a specific problem in itself, but a possible symptom of multiple different conditions, each of which can be influenced by multiple factors. A form of treatment that might be effective for one cause of heel pain may do nothing for another, which is why many people become frustrated when one or two initial home treatments attempts fail to yield results.

The good news is that, even if you have tried something that hasn’t worked, heel pain is far from invincible. The vast majority of cases can be treated effectively, and most often through conservative, non-surgical methods. It’s primarily a matter of determining exactly what we are dealing with.

We will be exploring a few of the fundamental influences that can be responsible for common conditions such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. 

Please note that the information below should not be used for self-diagnosis. All cases of persistent heel pain should be evaluated by a professional. However, this information can provide a great starting point for discussing your condition with us, and help us narrow down a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Wearing Ill-fitting or Improper Footwear

Whether you spend most of your time in business shoes, athletic shoes, or plain sneakers, shoes with the wrong qualities for your feet can lead to heel pain.

Shoes should always provide solid cushioning and arch support for your feet. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time on your feet during the day. 

Without proper support, you may be placing excess strain on certain areas of the foot. One common area is the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the base of the toes. Overuse can cause the plantar fascia to become aggravated and develop very small tears, leading to plantar fasciitis (and often sharp heel pain first thing in the morning).

The risks of heel pain and other injuries also rise if your shoes are not designed for the activities you are performing, or if their support and cushioning have worn down with use and time.

The Many Ways of How to Treat Heel Pain

Overuse Injuries

In general, an overuse injury occurs when the body is made to endure more force or pressure than it is currently conditioned to accept. This can happen in different ways:

  • The intensity of an activity is too high (e.g. trying to run a marathon when your body is only conditioned for a 5K).
  • Intensity ramps up too quickly without the body being prepared (e.g. taking off into a full sprint without warming up).
  • The body endures repetitive stress over time without enough opportunity to rest and recover (e.g. a strict running routine without rest days).

Although overuse injuries tend to be athletic in nature, they can also be experienced outside of sports or exercise. Work that requires lots of movement and/or stooping may also over-stress the feet and result in similar overuse injuries.

Overuse can influence heel pain-causing injuries such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and stress fractures, among others.

Abnormalities in Foot Structure

Sometimes the factors that most influence heel pain are not external, but inherent within the foot itself.

Irregularities in the structure of the foot, such as flat feet or high arches, can significantly shift the way that weight and pressure are distributed across the feet. This can cause excess stress in certain areas just from simply performing normal daily activities and walking around.

Structural abnormalities can also affect someone’s walking and running gaits, which can further increase the risk of heel pain – as well as pain within the legs, knees, hips, or lower back as the body adjusts to maintain stability. Add unsupportive shoes to the equation, and the likelihood of trouble rises even higher.

We’ll Help You Hit the Source of Your Heel Pain

When you know both the condition behind your heel pain and the causes of it, you can take effective action and find lasting relief. 

Whether your treatment plan includes conservative methods such as a change of footwear and custom orthotic inserts, or more advanced methods such as laser therapy or HyProCure, we will fully discuss our recommendations with you and answer any questions you may have about how the plan will best suit your needs.

Call Midwest Podiatry Centers at (612) 788-8778 to schedule an appointment with us at any of our eight area locations. If you prefer to reach us electronically instead, fill out our online contact form below and a member of our staff will respond to you during our standard office hours.