Heel pain can develop suddenly or evolve gradually over time. Certain conditions can lead to strain on the heel bone and the soft tissues attached to it, resulting in pain. Heels also usually hurt most first thing in the morning, or after a period of rest, so you may not realise that your heels have been overworked until you wake up the next day. So if you’ve been wondering why your heels have been painful, here’s why:
Cause #1: PLANTAR FASCIITIS
The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that runs along the sole of your foot from the heel to the middle foot bones. If tissue is damaged or torn by too much pressure, it can lead to plantar fasciitis. Here are six possible causes:
- Certain sports or activities that place a lot of stress on the heel bone, like running or dancing.
- Flat feet or high arches. These conditions may increase strain on your plantar fascia.
- Being middle aged or older, as heel pain tends to be more common with ageing.
- Being overweight, as excess weight places a greater mechanical load on your plantar fascia.
- Being on your feet a lot. Occupations that require a lot of walking or standing on hard surfaces, like teaching and retail, may lead to plantar fascia pain in the long run.
- Wearing shoes with poor arch support or stiff soles. Poorly designed shoes may contribute to the problem too.
What you can do
The condition usually improves on its own within a year, but you can control the symptoms with these three tips:
1. Night splints to hold the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight.
2. Orthotics to help distribute pressure to the feet more evenly, and to stimulate the small foot muscles.
3. A physiotherapist can give instruction on a series of exercises to stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and to strengthen lower leg muscles, which stabilises the ankle and heel.
Cause #2: HEEL SPURS
A heel spur is a bony growth under the heel bone that can only be seen on X-ray. They occur when calcium deposits build up as a result of excessive stress on the heel bone, ligaments and nerves near the heel. Causes include:
- Problems with how the feet function.
- Frequent running on hard surfaces.
- Non-supportive footwear.
- Being overweight or obese.
What you can do
The best plan of action is rest, inflammation control and specific stretches and massage techniques your podiatrist can teach you.