THE FACTS ON HEEL PAIN:
WHAT IS HEEL PAIN?
Heel pain is any type of pain or discomfort that occurs in or under the heel. Heel pain may also occur along the back of the heel. Foot pain in the heel may feel like a mild ache or the pain may be more intense. In some cases, heel pain can be mild in the beginning and then progress to more intense pain over time. In other cases, heel pain may be sharp and severe, occurring suddenly.
Foot heel pain may crop up when standing, walking or engaging in sports. The heel area may feel tender to the touch. In some cases, the area surrounding the heel may be swollen.
WHAT CAUSES HEEL PAIN?
What causes heel pain?
There are many different causes of heel pain. Some of the most common include:
Plantar fasciitis — Usually the result of overuse, plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia (a ligament located along the bottom of the foot) becomes inflamed. Plantar fasciitis typically produces a sharp pain in or underneath the heel. Usually the bottom of heel pain is most severe first thing in the morning after getting out of bed.
Achilles tendinitis — Like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis is typically an overuse injury. The issue stems from damage and inflammation in the Achilles tendon, which attaches the muscles in the calf to the heel bone in the foot. Achilles heel pain usually begins as a dull ache just above the back of the heel. While the pain may start out mild, it can intensify over time or following strenuous physical activity. The area around the back of the heel may feel stiff and swollen. There can be back of heel pain when walking if a shoe rubs against the back of the tender heel area.
Achilles tendon rupture — Unlike Achilles tendinitis, an Achilles tendon rupture is an injury that’s typically caused by a specific event such as a swift, forceful movement when playing sports. When the Achilles tendon is ruptured, there’s usually a sudden, severe and sharp pain in the lower leg above the heel. Some people report that it feels like they were kicked in the calf.
Heel bone bruise — The heel bone can become bruised due to some kind of an event that causes forceful impact to the heel bone, such as landing hard after jumping or falling, or stepping on a hard object such as a rock. A heel bone bruise can cause pain and tenderness in the heel area. There may be swelling and it’s possible to have discoloration although many heel bone bruises don’t produce visible symptoms.
Heel bursitis — The joints of the body are cushioned with bursae, fluid-filled pouches that lubricate and cushion. If inflammation occurs in the bursa of the ankle, it can cause pain in the back of the heel, between the heel bone and Achilles tendon. The condition can cause pain and tenderness along with swelling.
Heel spurs — Also known as bone spurs, heel spurs are bony growths that form on the heel bone. While some heel spurs produce no symptoms, in some cases, the heel may feel tender to the touch and there may be heel spur pain when standing or walking. Some heel spurs form a bump that can be felt or seen from the outside.
Heel bone fracture — A fracture of the heel bone typically occurs as the result of a traumatic accident such as a car accident or a fall from a considerable height. This type of injury produces immediate intense pain and requires prompt medical attention.
While anyone can suffer from discomfort in the heel area, there are factors that can increase the risk of heel pain, including:
Excess weight — Carrying extra pounds puts stress on the lower body, including the feet. This increases the risk of heel pain.
High-impact sports — Repeated stress on the feet from high-impact sports that involve running and jumping can lead to heel pain.
Structural issues of the foot — Conditions such as flat feet and high arches can affect how body weight is distributed across the feet, potentially leading to heel pain.
Hard surfaces —Standing for extended periods on hard surfaces can contribute to heel pain over time.
Improper shoes — Wearing shoes that don’t have adequate support or cushioning can cause stress to the feet, potentially causing heel pain.
HOW TO HELP PREVENT HEEL PAIN?
It’s not always possible to prevent heel pain as an unexpected accident or injury may occur. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of heel pain from overuse injuries and repeated stress.
Limit high-impact activity — Avoid overdoing it when it comes to high-impact sports. Allow your body to recover between workouts and consider swapping in low-impact workouts several times a week to reduce pressure on the feet.
Lose weight — If you’re overweight, dropping even a few pounds can take pressure off the feet and lessen the chances of heel pain.
Wear appropriate shoes — Select shoes that are designed specifically for your intended activity. Make sure the shoes have good support and cushioning.
Add orthotics and insoles — Give your shoes additional reinforcement with orthotics or insoles for heel pain and arch support. Heel pain relief insoles help redistribute weight to alleviate stress on the feet. Dr. Scholl’s® Pain Relief Orthotics for Heel Pain feature Shock Guard® technology to absorb shock and protect the heels from painful impact. Dr. Scholl’s® Plantar Fasciitis Pain Relief Sized to Fit Insoles provide targeted arch support to protect the plantar fascia from stretching, which can lead to further injury. Also consider Dr. Scholl’s® Custom Fit® Orthoticsfor a customized solution.
Prepare properly for exercise — Introduce a new exercise slowly. Be sure to warm up and stretch the calves out thoroughly before starting your workout. Always increase the intensity of your workouts gradually, giving your body time to adapt.
HOW TO RELIEVE HEEL PAIN?
Heel pain can often be addressed effectively with at-home self-care remedies.
Ice — Cold therapy can help reduce heel pain and swelling. It can be especially helpful right after a workout when the heel area may be particularly sore and tender. Apply an ice pack directly to the heel area for up to 20 minutes.
Rest —It’s important to take it easy and allow your heel pain to resolve. You may need to avoid certain types of activity for a while. Consider low-impact sports like swimming and cycling to avoid stressing a painful heel.
Stretching and strengthening — Exercises geared at stretching and strengthening specific muscles in the lower leg may help provide relief from heel pain. Ask a physical therapist for guidance.
Pain relievers — Over-the-counter pain relievers can reduce heel pain. Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen can also help with inflammation.
Heel inserts — If heel pain is making it uncomfortable to walk, consider placing heel inserts in your shoes.Dr. Scholl’s® Massaging Gel® Heel Cups cradle and cushion tender heels with Massaging Gel® technology. These heel cups are designed to absorb painful shock while preventing shoe rubbing and slippage that can irritate and cause pain in the back of the heel.
See your doctor if you have severe heel pain or if your heel pain doesn’t improve with at-home remedies. Some conditions that cause heel pain require medical attention.