Heel pain does not sound as much but for many it can be a stumbling block preventing them from achieving their fitness targets or simply affecting their mobility and enjoyment of life.
It is many months into the pandemic which has caused us all to make dramatic changes to our everyday routines. As a result for some of us it has been much more difficult to take regular exercise, and has led to a marked increase in our body weight (guilty!). However, for others staying at home has actually been a welcome opportunity to do more exercise and finally get into shape.
Whatever your relationship with exercise has been over the past few months – whether you have been embracing it for the first time or have increased the intensity of your daily fitness routine it has probably caused your legs and feet to ache. Similarly, if you have not moved much and have indulged a little bit on food the extra few ponds gained would have put extra strain on your feet.
If you find yourself now with sore feet first thing in the morning or it hurts after you have sat for a while and then got up to and feet feel stiff or you cannot enjoy a long walk because your heels ache? Read on.
Our heel is designed to support the weight of your body; while you are walking or running your heel absorbs the impact of your foot hitting the ground. As a consequence, if you increase the intensity of your exercise routine and/or gain weight, your chance of sustaining a heel injury is also likely to increase.
The causes of heel pain
There are certain conditions and pathologies that can cause, heel pain, for example:
- Nerve entrapment
- Plantar fat pad injuries
- Plantar fasciitis/fasciopathy
- Sever’s disease
- Heel stress fractures
- Muscle tightness.
Unsurprisingly, patients presenting with painful heels are routinely seen by podiatrists. Your podiatrist will be able to identify source of the problem and formulate an effective treatment plan for you.
What is the most common cause of heel pain?
The overwhelming majority of heel pain seen by podiatrist is due to one condition: Plantar fasciopathy (commonly known as plantar fasciitis). The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue at the bottom of the foot, which connects the heel bone to the head of the metatarsal bones found at the base of your toes. As a result of injury or overuse the plantar fascia swells up, gets inflamed and suffers tiny tears.
What are the treatment options for Plantar Fasciitis?
Because podiatrists are skilled in treating feet they are able to diagnose plantar fasciopathy by taking a full history of the your symptoms and conducting a thorough biomechanical assessment.
Rather than trying to get read of your heel pain yourself especially if you have been trying for a while and did not manage to get far you should consider visiting a podiatrist.
Do not worry, treatment options are varied, and research shows that 90% of cases can be successfully resolved without surgery. Firstly, a podiatrist will conduct a thorough biomechanical assessment and then will formulate a treatment plan.
Here are the most commonly used approaches in which plantar fasciitis can be addressed:
- Short periods of rest (reducing activity levels)
- Strengthening and stretching exercises
- Night splints
- Shockwave therapy (ESWT)
- Custom-made orthotics
- Footwear advice
- Applying ice to reduce pain
- Steroid injections.