is one of the most common and irritatingly painful foot problems. It can strike at nearly any age, regardless of health status or activity level. There are a variety of possible causes of heel pain, but the most common cause is heel spur syndrome, or plantar fasciitis
To determine the cause of your heel pain, it's best have an evaluation by a podiatrist (foot specialist) or other health care provider. This is important because sometimes -- although much less often -- heel pain can be a symptom of a fracture, torn tendon, or pinched nerve. Heel pain that is caused by more common conditions, such as plantar fasciitis and bursitis, can often be alleviated with the help of some popular foot products.
Heel pain usually occurs on the under surface of the heel, causing pain with each step. When the pain flares up, it is best to never go barefoot, which can make symptoms worse. Wearing a supportive shoe to decrease pressure under the foot is ideal. Heel cups, which are placed in shoes, provide additional cushioning under the heel, helping to offset some of the pain.
Over-stressed ligaments on the sole of the foot can lead to soreness and inflammation. In most cases, heel pain is linked to the foot's ligament-like structure known as the plantar fascia
. The plantar fascia, which supports the foot's arch, attaches at the ball of the foot and at the heel. Using a foot roller to massage and stretch the plantar fascia is a great method for alleviating soreness and preventing future pain flare-ups.
Stretch bands, also known as resistance bands, are used to stretch the ankle
, which increases flexibility in the Achilles tendon
. Stretching of the calf muscles and Achilles tendon are beneficial for plantar fasciitis as well as pain in the back of the heel. Most stretch bands are made from latex, but latex-free bands are available if you're allergic to latex.
This all-in-one kit contains a foot roller, resistance band, instructions for stretching exercises, and Biofreeze® Roll-On, which is a topical cold therapy gel that can be used for temporary pain relief. The roll-on bottle makes it easy for massaging sore areas of the foot.
Arch supports, also called orthotics
, are an important part of heel pain treatment and prevention. Plantar fasciitis and other causes of heel pain, such as bursitis, are usually aggravated by increased strain on the feet -- often due to faulty biomechanics, or foot functioning. Orthotics decrease stress and strain on the feet and help correct any biomechanical problems. If custom-made orthotics from a podiatrist are not an option, look for over-the-counter brands that have a solid arch that can't be easily flattened. When the heel pain subsides, orthotics can help prevent it from recurring.
One of the key symptoms of plantar fasciitis is pain with those first steps out of bed in the morning. When resting, our feet are flexed downward for long periods of time, causing the calf muscles to temporarily lose flexibility. This in turn puts a strain on the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia when we get back on our feet in the morning. One way you can alleviate these painful first steps is by doing calf stretches before getting out of bed. A night splint device can be helpful for keeping the foot from flexing down while you sleep, which helps maintain flexibility of the calf muscles. A night splint may be recommended by your health care provider if morning heel pain is a problem, and in some cases may be covered by health insurance.
Sometimes heel pain occurs at the back of the heel, in the area where the Achilles tendon (click for image)
attaches to the heel bone. Retrocalcaneal bursitis (click for image)
is one condition that causes pain in the back of the heel. Additionally, children and adolescents may experience pain in the back of the heel from calcaneal apophysitis
, a condition that is caused by irritation of the heel bone's growth plate. If you or your child are diagnosed with one of these conditions, your doctor may recommend heel lifts to be placed in shoes. Heel lifts are an inexpensive and effective way to reduce stress on the Achilles tendon.