Our feet are incredibly complex; they’re made up of interconnected joints, muscles, bones, and tissues. We rely on our feet to help us with countless activities, from walking around to working out.
If you’re experiencing persistent heel pain, it can affect your everyday life. You’re reminded of it each time your feet bear the weight of your body. Suddenly, heel pain gets in the way of your favourite things. You can’t take an afternoon walk or go for a bike ride without nagging pain in your feet.
You can develop heel pain at any point in life; it may manifest after an injury or get worse with age. Foot pain affects as many as one in ten Canadians.
How do you know when to be concerned about heel pain? At the Pedorthic Association of Canada, we’ve put together a general guide about heel pain, from its main causes to potential treatments:
What Are Common Causes of Heel Pain?
Given how common heel pain is, there are many different causes behind it. You may notice that most of the following conditions have similar causes and symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to see a Canadian Certified Pedorthist, who can examine your feet closely to determine the best treatment option.
Without further ado, here are a few things that may be causing your discomfort:
If you look at the bottom of your feet, you’ll notice a flexible, thick tissue that spans from your toes to your heel. This ligament is called the plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis occurs when that ligament becomes swollen or strained.
This common condition can result from many things, including:
- Flat feet
- High arches
- Excessive strain on the feet
- Ill-fitting footwear
Many people confuse plantar fasciitis with heel spurs, but these are two different conditions. A heel spur is a bony growth under the heel of the foot that is often caused by plantar fasciitis.
At the back of your foot is a thicker band that connects your calf muscles to your heel, called the Achilles tendon. Between this tendon and the bone, bursas protect the structures from pressure and friction. This bursa may become inflamed or tender if your shoes rub against the skin. To prevent this condition, make sure your footwear properly cushions the heel bone.
Calcaneal Stress Fracture
Your heel bone, which is also called the calcaneus, helps you with balance and stability while you walk. This bone can fracture if your foot is damaged in a high-impact injury, such as a collision or car accident. We suggest seeking immediate medical attention if you suspect your foot is fractured.
Too much physical activity can strain our Achilles tendon, which may result in Achilles tendinopathy. This condition is often linked to footwear that’s too big/small or overactivity.
These are just a few main causes of heel pain; your discomfort could be caused by an issue not listed here. We recommend talking to a Pedorthist about your concerns; they can take a look at your issue and create a treatment plan for pain relief.
How Can Heel Pain Be Treated?
You only realize how important foot health is once it begins to decline. Heel pain can be disruptive to your daily life. These simple treatments can help you manage your inflammation and discomfort:
Wear Supportive, Fitted Footwear
Oftentimes, the cause of your pain is linked to footwear. Take a look at the shoes you wear every day. Are they supporting your feet, or causing you pain?
It’s a good practice to change your footwear based on what activity you’re doing. For example, if you’re running or working out, you need sneakers that can absorb impact and cushion your feet.
You can even wear footwear around the house; look for slippers that are comfortable, but still offer structure and support (i.e., they don’t bend in half if you fold them over). This can protect you from developing a stone bruise, which is pain that results when you step on a hard object.
Why is stretching so important? A tighter muscle is at more risk of injury because less motion can lead to an injury. Stretching also helps during specific phases of the healing process to prevent the injury from returning again. We suggest stretching before and after any physical activity. To stretch your feet, you can try these gentle and effective plantar fasciitis stretches.
Giving Your Body a Break
These days, we’re constantly on the go. Taking a rest day can ease the stress on the ligaments and tissues in your feet. If possible, try to work from home and avoid strenuous exercise until your heel pain subsides.
Support the tissues and ligaments in your feet with custom-made foot orthotics. These devices are moulded to the exact dimensions of your feet; they give you support where you need it most. A Pedorthist can create a custom-made orthotic that can help alleviate your heel pain.
When Should You See a Canadian Certified Pedorthist?
Is it time to search for a local Pedorthist? If you notice the following signs, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us:
- Persistent pain. It’s not unusual to have sore feet now and then, especially after an intensive workout or a busy week. But if you’ve been experiencing heel pain for weeks (that seems to be getting worse instead of better), it’s cause for concern.
- Difficulty with daily tasks. Is your heel pain interfering with your ability to live your life? You might find it too painful to do things you once loved, like standing in the kitchen while you cook, or going for a jog after a long day.
Heel Pain Complications
What might happen if your heel pain is left untreated? It may begin to interfere with your ability to walk. You may need to adapt your lifestyle to accommodate this discomfort, causing you to miss out on activities you enjoy.
Some foot conditions require surgery to treat. Reduce your chances of complications by treating heel pain as soon as possible.
Heel Pain Prevention
Prevention and treatment start with a proper diagnosis. When you schedule an appointment with a Pedorthist, they will begin by thoroughly examining your feet and lower limbs. Once they’ve identified what might be causing your pain, they can modify your footwear or create a custom foot orthotic to alleviate your discomfort.
Do you have further questions about heel pain? We’d be happy to help. Click here to find a local Canadian Certified Pedorthist near you.