Heel pain is one to the most common complaints of patients visiting our foot and ankle specialist at SportsMED. Heel pain causes extreme discomfort on the underside or back of the heel during weight bearing movements.
COMMON CAUSES OF HEEL PAIN
Heel pain can be the result of over-use, or repetitive stress, which refers to soreness resulting from too much impact on a specific area of the foot. For example, wearing worn out shoes with little heel support, a heel pad (fat pad) becoming too thin, or from a sudden increase in activity. Another common cause of heel pain is related to biomechanical issues, such as over-pronation (flat feet). This would include conditions such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, bunions, or tendonitis.
OTHER CAUSES OF HEEL PAIN INCLUDE:
- Achilles tendinitis: is a chronic (long term) condition associated with the degeneration of the Achilles tendon.
- Achilles tendon rupture: a tear to the tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
- Bursitis (joint inflammation): inflammation of the bursa located on the back of the heel. This may be caused by landing awkwardly on the heel, or from pressure caused by improper footwear.
- Heel spur: a pointed bony outgrowth of the bone of the heel.
- Peripheral neuropathy: weakness, numbness, and pain in the feet caused by nerve damage.
- Plantar fasciitis: inflammation of the plantar fascia ligament that runs from the heel to the tip of the foot.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: chronic inflammatory disorder affecting the joints of the feet.
- Stress fractures: a fracture caused by repetitive stress, usually as a result of strenuous activities, sports, or heavy manual work. Runners are particularly prone to stress fractures in the metatarsal bones.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome: a large nerve in the back of the foot becomes pinches, or compressed, and can occur in the ankle or foot.
WHEN TO SEE A SPECIALIST
Heel pain symptoms that might indicate it is time to see a specialist include:
- Severe pain and swelling near the heel
- Heel pain with fever, numbness, or tingling
- Inability to bend your foot downward, rise on your toes, or walk normally
- Severe heel pain following an injury
Heel pain that is not severe can often times be treated at home. Some helpful tips to manage any discomfort include:
- Rest: avoid activities that put stress on the heel like running, standing for long periods of time, or walking barefooted on hard surfaces.
- Ice: ice the heel for 20 minutes three times per day.
- New shoes: be sure to wear shoe that fit properly and provide plenty of support. If you are an athlete, choose shoes that are sport specific.
- Shoe inserts: heel cups, wedges, and orthotics can provide relief for heel pain.