Sore feet are far from a rare occurrence. A long day at work or a late night out is all it takes to bring on that familiar sense of throbbing when we finally sit down at the end of the day. But this kind of pain is usually gone by the next day, and doesn’t really cause us any long term problems or discomfort. Pain that is concentrated in the heel is a different story. Heel pain is usually the result of a problem that has been building up for some time, and so, it also tends to stick around longer. If you have been experiencing heel pain for more than a few days, here are some things you should know.
One of the most common causes of heel pain is Plantar fasciitis, the inflammation of the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The repeated expansion and contraction of the Plantar fascia causes tiny tears to develop in its microfibres, which leads to swelling and pain. It is usually the result of wearing shoes with improper arch support, or excessive walking or running.
Pain associated with Plantar fasciitis is usually felt on the bottom of the feet. Achilles tendonitis is a similar condition, where the tendon connecting the calf and soleus muscles to the heel becomes inflamed. This is usually a result of excessive running, or failure to warm up properly before a run. The pain associated with Achilles tendonitis is felt at the back of the heel.
While both of these conditions are perfectly common amongst children and teenagers, young people are also particularly prone to a condition known as Sever’s Disease. Despite the scary name, Sever’s Disease is a relatively harmless condition where the growth plate of the heel becomes inflamed. This is usually caused by repeated stress to the heel, but can also be caused by wearing shoes that are too flat and soft. A reduction in physical activity and better shoes are usually enough to treat the condition.
In older patients, heel pain may be a result of reduced cushioning around the heel. Normally, we have a thick pad of fat that absorbs shock for our heels, but this can become thinner over time, especially if the person strikes the ground hard with their heels a lot, such as by running. This also makes people more susceptible to another cause of heel pain: stress fractures. This is also a result of the heel constantly hitting against the ground, and is characterised by pain that usually gets worse over time without an intervention.
These are some of the most common causes of heel pain, but as you may have noticed, there are some common themes running throughout. In most cases, heel pain is a result of two things: poor quality footwear, and excessive impact of the heel on the ground (something that is exacerbated by poor footwear). Most of the time, the pain can be resolved by reducing levels of physical activity while the foot heals and by using the RICE technique. But the best way to deal with heel pain in the long run is to ensure you are wearing the right kind of shoes.
This can actually be trickier than it sounds, so if heel pain is something you have been experiencing for quite some time, be sure to check out our blog on finding the right shoe for your foot type.