Heel pain is most often caused by plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the long, dense band of connective tissue (the plantar fascia) that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot.
Repeated strain on the plantar fascia can cause tiny tears in the ligament. As tension and tearing increases, so does inflammation and irritation of the affected area. Risk factors of plantar fasciitis include foot arch problems (flat foot and high arches); excess weight; running; and a tight Achilles tendon.
The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is gradually developing pain on the bottom of the heel. The pain is usually worst in the morning and after sitting or standing for a long period of time. For some, the pain subsides after walking or stretching.
To reduce pain associated with plantar fasciitis:
- Rest. Limit and/or avoid activities that make your heel hurt.
- Ice. Reduce pain and swelling by icing the affected area each day.
- Stretch. Stretch your heel throughout the day, especially when you first wake up in the morning.
- Footwear modifications. Wear shoes that provide good arch support and a cushioned sole. Ask your podiatrist about pads and shoe inserts to relieve your heel pain.
When conservative treatments aren't effective, or your pain persists for more than a few weeks, schedule an appointment to discuss your symptoms and treatment options. A podiatrist can recommend an appropriate treatment plan for your individual needs. This may include stretching exercises, shoe padding, orthotic devices, night splints or therapy. Most patients respond to non-surgical treatments, but for pain that won't go away, surgery may be required.
With proper rest and treatment, recovering from plantar fasciitis can take just a few months. Visit us when you first experience pain for a diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan for your individual needs.