Sat Jun 03 2023
How to Recognize the Signs of Heel Pain and Take Action
Heel pain is widespread among many people, with up to two million Americans seeking treatment yearly.
While there are several potential causes of heel pain, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis are the most frequent culprits. Heel pain can also result from everyday actions like stepping on something hard or sharp. Still, most cases stem from overuse injuries that develop gradually from excessive strain on the body rather than a single traumatic event.
Fortunately, treatments, such as wearing supportive orthopedic shoes, can be very effective in relieving your pain and getting your foot health back on track. But before we get into that, let's understand the ins and outs of pain in the heel first.
What is heel pain?
Heel pain refers to discomfort or pain felt in the heel of the foot. Because the heel is the largest bone in the foot, experiencing pain in this area is not uncommon. Usually, the discomfort you feel can be described as a sharp and stabbing pain or a dull and burning ache.
Where does heel pain develop?
Typically there are two areas in the heel where you experience pain, soreness and tenderness.
Posterior Heel Pain
Pain that develops in the back of the heel is called posterior heel pain. This type of pain is usually caused by Achilles Tendinitis.
Bottom of the Heel Pain (or pain in the heel bone)
Pain beneath the heel is the most common form of heel pain. It is most likely caused by Plantar Fasciitis - which can be very painful and cause severe discomfort.
Heel pain causes and how it affects you
Your feet take a lot of punishment with each step, and heel pain is a typical result of that action. Whether this pain is mild or severe, it should not be ignored – if left untreated, it could lead to long-term issues.
What causes pain behind the heel?
As mentioned, Posterior heel pain is most commonly caused by Achilles Tendinitis. But there are also a few other causes, so let's discuss each in detail.
Achilles Tendinitis is the inflammation or irritation of the Achilles tendon, the thick band of tissue connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone. It typically occurs due to overuse or injury, which can be pretty painful. This type of pain is common among runners or adults who are inactive during the week but active on weekends.
Achilles Tendon Rupture
An Achilles Tendon Rupture is exactly what it sounds like - a tear in the Achilles Tendon. It usually happens when you fall or because of an overuse injury.
If you suspect you have a rupture, we suggest you seek medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve your chances of a full recovery.
Bursitis in the heel is an inflammation or irritation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac at the back of the heel bone. It is typically caused by repetitive motions or prolonged pressure on the area.
Haglund's deformity is a bony enlargement on the back of the heel bone. It often occurs when there is constant pressure on the heel, like when a tight shoe rubs against your heel. It's more common in women because they tend to wear high heels.
Fun fact, the condition is named after Patrick Haglund, a Swedish surgeon who first described it in the early 20th century.
What causes pain in the bottom of the heel?
As mentioned, pain at the bottom of your heel is most commonly caused by Plantar Fasciitis. But there are also a few other causes, so let's discuss each in detail.
Plantar Fasciitis is when the thick band of tissue that extends from the heel to the toes, known as the plantar fascia, becomes damaged and inflamed due to overuse or injury. This pain is usually more intense in the morning when you first stand up or after sitting for a long time.
A Bone Bruise (contusion)
A bone bruise or fat pad contusion is a condition that occurs when the soft tissue of the heel becomes damaged from impact or overuse. It typically causes pain, tenderness and bruising.
A heel spur, also medically known as a calcaneal spur, is an abnormal growth on the heel bone.
Dorsal spurs are usually related to Achilles Tendinopathy, and plantar spurs are linked to Plantar Fasciitis. These spurs can be found either at the back of the heel (dorsal heel spur) or under the heel (plantar heel spur). It typically occurs due to repetitive strain or pressure and can be quite painful.
Other causes of heel pain include
Sprain or Strain
Sprains and strains are injuries to the body, often resulting from physical activity. These injuries are common and can range from minor to severe, depending on the incident.
Both types of injuries can be caused by the overuse of a muscle, stretching beyond the body's natural range of motion, or trauma such as a fall or blow.
It's important to seek medical attention if symptoms are severe or do not improve after a few days of self-care.
SYMPTOMS OF A SPRAIN OR STRAIN
- pain around the affected area
- restricted flexibility
- difficulty using the affected joint's full range of motion
- muscle spasm
- pain around the affected area
- restricted flexibility
- difficulty using the affected joint's full range of motion
Fracture (broken bone)
In the case of a fracture, you may feel immediate sharp or radiating pain; however, mild strains or sprains can start out small and gradually worsen over time if not treated properly.
SYMPTOMS OF A FRACTURE
- Severe pain when the injury happens
- A snap sound when the injury happens
- Swelling, redness or bruising in the injured area
- Unable to put weight on this area
It is vital that you seek medical treatment for a fracture, as this type of pain can be severe.
What are the risk factors for heel pain?
Knowing the risk factors can help you address them early on to prevent heel pain from developing in the long run.
- Body weight
- Wearing walking shoes that don't adequately support your feet can increase the risk of heel pain.
- Excessive running or other high-impact activities
- Flat feet and/or high arches
- Tight calf muscles or an abnormal walking gait
In addition to the above, people with diabetes, arthritis, neurological disorders, and certain diseases may also be predisposed to developing heel pain.
What are the symptoms of heel pain?
Heel pain is caused by a variety of issues or conditions, and each one of them can have different signs or symptoms you should look out for:
Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis
- Pain along the length of the tendon while walking or touched
- Stiffness in the morning
- Pain that worsens when the ankle is flexed or extended
Symptoms of an Achilles Tendon Rupture
- Pain in the back of the ankle
- Swelling near the heel
- Inability to bend your foot downward
- Inability to stand on your toes
- Difficulty walking
Symptoms of Bursitis
- The joint is achy or stiff
- Swelling and redness in the affected area
- Difficulty moving the affected joint
Symptoms of Haglund's Deformity
- A noticeable bump on the back of the heel
- Pain and swelling in the affected area
- Redness and inflammation around the bump
- Difficulty wearing shoes that press against your heel
Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms
- Stabbing foot pain
- Pain while walking
- Swelling & tenderness
- Limited foot mobility
- Pain after exercise
- Morning heel pain
- Persistent pain after rest
Symptoms of a Bone Bruise (in the heel)
- Skin looks blue or purple
- Swelling and stiffness in the area
- Tenderness and pain under the heel that last longer than a normal bruise
- Difficulty using your foot
Symptoms of Heel Spurs
It is not necessarily the spur that causes pain, but the damage done to the soft tissue surrounding it. Symptoms can include:
- Chronic pain while walking or running
- Inflammation at the point of the spur
- Swelling or redness in the area
- The affected area feels warm to the touch
When should you see a doctor for your heel pain?
If you develop heel pain, addressing the problem is vital. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve your chances of recovery and help prevent long-term damage. If conservative treatments at home don't alleviate the pain, consider seeing a doctor.
You should contact a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Intense or persistent heel pain
- Pain that worsens with activity
- Swelling, redness, or warmth on the heel
- Difficulty walking or putting weight on the affected foot
- Numbness in the feet
Your doctor can recommend an appropriate treatment plan for you.
Treatment options for heel pain relief
There are various ways to treat heel pain at home to help you get back on your feet. With the right treatment plan tailored to your specific needs, preventing or reducing heel pain and continuing to live an active life is possible.
1. Take Time To Rest
If you develop mild heel pain, we suggest you rest as much as possible. Avoid walking long distances or standing for long periods. Also, take a break from activities or exercises that put stress on your heel, such as running or skipping.
2. Treat Your Heel
You can do certain exercises and stretches if you have been diagnosed with any of these conditions or suspect you have them.
For Plantar Fasciitis
If you're suffering from plantar fasciitis pain, you can do a few things to help control it:
- Spend less time on your feet.
- Elevate your feet above your heart to help increase blood circulation.
- Ice your heels with an ice pack or ice wrapped in a towel for 15 minutes twice daily.
- Do regular stretches daily to help increases flexibility, such as a standing calf stretch, heel raises, plantar fascia stretch, toe curls with a towel and a rolling stretch.
- Wear shoes for plantar fasciitis that cushion and support your arches and heels.
For Heel Spurs
If the condition is mild, we suggest you try the plantar fasciitis treatment options, as plantar fasciitis is very closely related to this condition. Another treatment option is the RICE Method:
Rest: If you're hurt, rest for 2 days to avoid further injury and bruising.
Ice: Apply an ice pack (in a towel) for 15-20 minutes every 2/3 hours, 24-48 hours after injury.
Compress: Wrap the injured area in an elastic bandage (not too tight).
Elevate: Raise the injured foot (or feet) above heart level.
For Achilles Tendonitis
- Wear a night splint to strap your heel at night (in severe cases).
- Treat your pain with the RICE method.
- Do regular stretches and exercises that target the back of your calf, such as the runner's stretch.
If you are suffering from bursitis, this will improve on its own over time. But the key is to put less strain on your ankles or heels. To do this, wear comfortable walking shoes with arch and heel support.
3. Wear Proper Footwear
Supportive orthopedic shoes are an essential part of the recovery process. Proper footwear can help relieve heel pain by cushioning and supporting the foot. The cushioning helps absorb shock and lessen the strain on the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, while the support helps improve the alignment of your feet and ankles.
What shoes to avoid if you have heel pain?
It is best to avoid wearing shoes that are too thin, tight or narrow.
- High Heels with a narrow toe box can add pressure to your toes and heels.
- Stilettos with a thin, tall heel can be painful after prolonged wear.
- Flip-flops or sandals lack cushioning and put extra strain on your feet.
- Shoes with a hard sole can cause shock to your heels when you walk, leading to discomfort and pain.
- Shoes with worn-down soles don't provide the arch support or cushioning needed to prevent heel pain.
- Flat shoes (Ballet flats) don't provide enough arch support.
The best shoes for heel pain
Generally speaking, shoes with good arch support, cushioning and shock absorbency are ideal for heel pain sufferers. But these are also other features to look out for.
Feature 1: Adequate Arch Support
Shoes with good arch support can help distribute your body's weight evenly and reduce the pressure on the heel.
Feature 2: Extra Cushioning
Shoes with ample cushioning in the heel area can provide shock absorption and reduce the impact of each step, which can help alleviate heel pain.
Feature 3: Padded, Deep Heel Cup
The heel cup helps with heel stability. A padded heel cup can provide additional support and help prevent overpronation, which can contribute to heel pain.
Feature 4: Shock Absorbency
When you walk, your feet and heels are subjected to a lot of force as they make contact with the ground. A shoe with good shock absorbency cushions your heel while you walk, which can reduce the amount of pressure that is placed on your feet.
Feature 5: Memory Foam Insole
A memory foam insole provides extra comfort as it moulds to the contours of your feet over time.
Wearing the proper shoes is the first step in managing your heel pain, and we've got just the shoe for you.
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Hyper Arch Motion Features
These really are the best shoes for plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinitis, heel spurs and other heel pain conditions. Hyper has everything you need to walk without discomfort.
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If you're still thinking about it, read what our happy customers say about our supportive footwear!
"These sneakers are amazing! They are so comfortable and have helped me to avoid foot pain. The shoes are also very stretchy and fit my wide feet perfectly."
Dina, United States
"When I first tried on my Hyper arch motion sneakers, I was in love! They are so comfortable and have a really unique design. These are also really stretchy and fit my wide feet perfectly. And the air-cushion heel makes walking feel like I'm walking on clouds. I would highly recommend these sneakers to anyone who is looking for a comfortable and pain-free shoe."
Louise, United States
"I've tried a bunch of different shoes and inserts before but these sneakers are by far the best for my Plantar Fasciitis pain. I can walk and stand longer without feeling any pain. I'm a happy camper and I totally recommend them."
Sophie, United States
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