What causes heel pain?
The most common reason for heel pain is frequent pounding from running on hard surfaces, such as concrete. Plantar fasciitis is a type of heel pain that's caused by flat feet, shoes with poor arch support, stiff-soled shoes, quick turns, standing for long periods of time, obesity, dancing (especially ballet and aerobic dance), repeated squatting or standing on your toes, or too much long-distance running. It's more likely to occur in people whose lifestyle or job causes an abnormal amount of stretching in the tissue, called the fascia, that runs across the surface of the foot from the heel bone to the toes. Heel bursitis is caused by landing hard or awkwardly on your heel or by poorly fitting shoes. Achilles tendonitis is caused by calf muscles that aren't flexible, suddenly turning your ankle, or running on hard surfaces.
How will my healthcare provider know what's causing my heel pain?
Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask you questions about your pain. Provide as much information as you can about it. For example, your heel may be swollen and tender. The pain may be worse when you first wake up in the morning or when you get up after sitting for a while. You may have an X-ray of your feet taken to check your bones.
How will my heel pain be treated?
Your healthcare provider will recommend one or more of these treatments:
* Taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. This helps reduce pain and swelling.
* Resting your foot. Your healthcare provider will let you know how long to avoid putting weight on your foot and explain how long to prop up your foot if it's swollen.
* Wearing shoe inserts (orthotics) to help support your feet. You can get custom orthotics from your healthcare provider or buy ready-made orthotics from a drugstore.
* Stretching your calf muscles by standing barefoot on a wedge board placed up against a wall. With both feet facing the wall, lean into the wall until you feel a stretch along the back of your calf. Hold this stretch for 5 minutes two times a day.
* Applying an ice pack to your heel and arch for 5 minutes or less, three times a day. Don't apply ice directly to your skin.
* Wearing a splint on your foot while you sleep. This bootlike device helps stretch your calf muscle and reduces heel pain.
* Injecting a steroid into your heel. Your healthcare provider will do this only if you have severe pain. This may relieve the pain for a short time.
* Surgery, although this is rarely needed.
What can I do to prevent heel pain?
* Let your healthcare provider check your shoes. You may need different shoes to ease your heel pain.
* Don't walk barefoot. Even when you're walking around your house, wear comfortable shoes that support your arches and protect your feet from injury.
* Contact your healthcare provider if your pain gets worse or if it isn't better after a month of treatment.