Foot pain is an every day occurrence for many people. It can be caused by standing too long, wearing the wrong shoes, walking or running wrong, too much activity or even not enough activity. When your feet are sore, it’s hard to pinpoint the cause. When that generic foot pain turns into heel pain, it’s a little easier to identify the cause and start to treat it.
If you experience constant heel pain, use our ultimate guide to heel pain to figure out what’s wrong, find the right insert for heel pain, and work toward relief!
Different Types of Heel Pain
The Mayo Clinic calls Plantar Fasciitis one of the most common causes of foot pain. Plantar Fasciitis literally means inflammation in the connective tissues on the bottom of the feet (Plantar= bottom of the foot, Fascia=dense fibrous connective tissue, Itis=inflammation). Because these tissues fan out across the entire foot and into the toes, when they are inflamed, they can cause major pain. This pain most commonly presents in the heel but can also present in your forefoot or arches.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
- A stabbing pain at the bottom of your foot near your heel is the most obvious symptom, but that pain could start off dull and get worse over time.
- Heel pain in the morning. Think of it this way: you’ve been stretching your Plantar Fascia all day. It’s inflamed by the end of the day when you go to bed. Overnight, your Plantar Fascia will try and heal itself. But as soon as you wake up, you put weight on your feet and stretch out the Plantar Fascia all over again, causing a fresh burst of pain.
- Discomfort when ramping up your physical activity in a short period of time.
- A heel spur is an abnormal growth of bone on the heel due to excessive stress or pulling where the plantar fascia attaches to the heel.
- The excessive tugging of the plantar fascia on the heel bone causes this excess of bone (bone spur) to grow in a pointed fashion toward the toes.
Causes of Heel Pain
When you walk, you should be rolling your foot slightly inward when you walk as you place your weight on the ball of your foot and push off your big toe. This action is called supination and it’s normal. It actually helps the body to absorb shock and adapt to different ground surfaces.
But, if you have over-supination of the foot, your weight is probably falling on the outside of your foot, causing you to push off your outer toes. This condition can cause your arch to flatten, followed by a number of painful symptoms. If the foot is weak or tired and/or the footwear is not supportive, then the arch can flatten more than normal, which is excessive pronation.
Excessive pronation places pressure on the arch and stretches the plantar fascia (which supports the arch) and can create inflammation at the attachment on the heel.
This repetitive, excessive pronation, is the main contributor to many lower extremity, overuse injuries, of which plantar fasciitis and heel spurs are the most common in the foot.
More symptoms of excessive pronation include:
- Ankle pain
- Pain in the ball of the foot
- Swelling of the foot or ankle
- Weakness in the foot or ankle that gets worse when running, walking, or standing
Additional Heel Pain Factors
- Age-With increasing age, often there is decreasing flexibility.
- Any sudden change in activity, specifically activities that increase weight bearing or pressure on the foot.
- Changes in training- Increased toe running, speed of running or hill running can add stress to the feet.
- Flat feet are most susceptible because of the lack of support. Rigid, high arched feet can be susceptible due to lack of flexibility.
- Sudden increase in body weight (overweight or pregnancy) may also add strain.
- Poor support in the shoes being worn and/or the poor support inside the shoes can add to the stress on the foot.
Treatment of Heel Pain
The three most suggested treatments for heel pain are THE 3S’S – Stretching, Strengthening and Supporting.
- Stretching: Stretching of the calf, Achilles tendon and foot can help or eliminate the majority of plantar fasciitis problems.
- Strengthening: Strengthening the muscles of the foot and ankle can assist in eliminating and avoiding these problems.
- Supporting the foot with proper shoes and inserts for heel pain can prevent or eliminate the vast majority of foot related problems. The vast majority of footwear have more than enough cushion but very little support for the arch and heel. One of the easiest and most effective solutions is to add a simple over the counter insole that provides a forgiving support for both the arch and heel. Orange insoles offers shoe insoles for heel pain, so you get the support you need.
- Ice: For short term relief, you can roll a bottle of frozen water under your foot. The cold will help reduce the inflammation and the healthful stretching will help as well.
- Rest: If you have foot pain, try to stay off it as much as possible or you could risk making It worse.
Inserts are recognized as the most successful remedy with stretching a close second.
Preventing Heel Pain
Even if your heels don’t hurt now, that’s no reason not to take measures to prevent future pain. Here are a few ways to keep your heels feeling great.
Before you take those new shoes out for a night on the town, wear them around your house. Put them on at home and walk around your house for about an hour. This will help you identify areas that are going to be a problem, most often your heel and the tops of your toes, and gives you the freedom to sit down and take them off when they really start to hurt. If you’re out in the world and you feel a blister coming on, you’re stuck. If you’re at home, you can do something about it.
You can also:
- Stretch the shoes using thick socks, a shoe shaper, or a potato.
- Heat the shoes. For your new leather shoes, you can try busting out the blow dryer. Make sure it’s real leather because this trick could damage synthetic fibers.
- Cool them down. Fill two plastic bags with water. Place each bag in one shoe and put both shoes in the freezer overnight. The water turns to ice and expands (remember science?), in turn expanding your shoe.
Use Good Form
Your running/walking form can be a major factor as well. An over-pronating foot type is often prone to suffering from Plantar Fasciitis so work on fixing for your form before the pain starts.
Wearing insoles in your every day shoes can be a great way to make sure you’re consistently supported, walking correctly, and not risking heel or foot pain.