When is the last time you really noticed your heels? You may not think about them much—until they hurt! This area of your foot endures a tremendous amount of stress. All of your body weight bears down on it when you stand, walk, and run. There are several conditions that cause heel pain. Most of them are relieved with conservative treatments (no surgery needed), so it doesn’t make sense to delay getting help when yours act up.
Why Your Heel Hurts
Pain can occur in many forms and in different parts of your heel. Most of the time, it happens because something about your stride puts too much pressure on the bone itself or on the tendons attached to it. Heel pain can also be caused by ill-fitting or worn down shoes, a pinched nerve, conditions like arthritis, or injuries such as a break or a bruise. Below are some of the more common causes for sore heels.
Plantar Fasciitis: When you run a lot, are overweight, or wear shoes that don’t support your foot, plantar fasciitis can cause your heel to hurt. The plantar fascia is a band of flexible tissue that helps form your arch by connecting your heel and toes together. It contracts and releases as needed, so your feet can deal with uneven terrain and cushion the impact of each step. With overuse or shoes that lack support, this tissue can stretch or tear, causing inflammation and pain. It can also tighten up when you are at rest. When you first put weight on it again, it can’t flex properly, and you feel a stabbing pain until it loosens up a bit. It also pulls against your heel bone, tearing at the membrane of the bone and causing a heel spur to form underneath. All of this can make you wince with every step.
Achilles Tendinopathy: Runners and people who walk a lot tend to have tight tendons and calf muscles. The Achilles tendon runs behind the ankle, connecting the heel bone to the calf muscles. Repeated stress on this tendon from overuse can cause it to become inflamed (tendinitis) or torn (ruptured tendon). The result is pain in the back of your ankle during and after exercise that may improve when you rest. It may reappear when you first get up in the morning and rescind once the tendon stretches out again. Stretching is particularly helpful in treating this injury.
Arthritis: Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout are all forms of this condition that can cause pain in your heels. They involve either a wearing down of the bone, an attack on the lining of the bone, or a formation of sharp crystals in the joints. All of these can make it difficult to bear any weight on your heel because of the pain.
Pronation: When your foot rolls too far to the inside or outside of your foot with each step, the ligaments and tendons that hold your bones in place are stressed and can be damaged. This can cause swelling and pressure that brings pain. Orthotics can often help correct the mechanics and bring relief.
Other causes of heel pain include bursitis, neuromas, a bone growth such as Haglund’s deformity, or a bruise from stepping on a sharp object.
Stop Heel Pain with Conservative Treatments
Mark Gasparini, D.P.M., offers many treatment options to relieve heel pain that will not require surgery. Icing, padding, taping, strapping and recommending proper footwear are just a few things we may suggest. We may also prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medications and cortisone injections. Many of our patients have found good pain control with custom orthotics designed for their specific feet. Physical therapy, like stretching and strengthening exercises, can also be very beneficial.
If you are suffering from pain in your heels, give our Massapequa, NY, office a call at (516) 804-9038. Put your sore heels into our hands for expert care.