Whether it’s a dull ache or a stabbing pain, heel pain is difficult to live with. Every step can feel like torture, which isn’t just painful from a physical perspective—it can affect your mental health, too.
Luckily, you don’t have to live with heel pain in the long term. Although heel pain can seem to come out of nowhere, there are a few common causes of it, along with a few treatment solutions that everyone should explore.
This blog post covers everything you need to know about heel pain, including common causes and the most effective treatment options to try today. If you feel your heel pain has become unmanageable, give us a call at (510) 647-3744 or click here to book an appointment with Dr. Miyazaki, our heel pain specialist, and podiatrist.
Your heels are not very big, but heel pain can make a big (and negative) impact on your life:
- Walking hurts. You start looking for ways to avoid walking, leading to a sedentary lifestyle.
- Exercise is difficult or impossible. If you can’t walk, it will be difficult or impossible to do any strenuous activity like running. Even non-impact exercises like cycling may be an issue due to the pressure you have to put on your heels.
- Simple daily activities become difficult chores. If you have to get up and walk, you’ll hurt. Period. Heel pain puts a negative twinge on everything you do.
Heel pain generally starts as a very minor pain, then builds up gradually over time if left untreated. Suddenly, your heel is in immense pain, but you may have no idea what caused it in the first place.
Heel pain can also start as a reaction to a problem in another area of your body. If extra stress is placed on your heel, that extra stress can cause pain, similar to how you can experience back pain if you have additional stress placed on your back.
Heel pain can develop as a response to an injury, such as a sprain. However, most heel pain develops slowly over time.
The main culprits for heel pain have to do with the feet. Using your feet too much, too quickly—for example, running a marathon with no training—may lead to heel pain, even without an acute injury.
Ill-fitting shoes, especially shoes that are too tight, are another major cause of heel pain. Even if the shoes you’re wearing look good, that doesn’t mean they’re healthy from an ergonomic perspective.
Heel pain can also develop indirectly as a result of a specific health condition.
Any of the following common health conditions can lead to heel pain:
- Plantar fasciitis. When you get plantar fasciitis, a thick band of tissue near your heel becomes inflamed, leading to pain in that area. This condition is very common and so many people will experience plantar fasciitis in their lifetime.
- Heel spurs. Heel Spurs arise as a result of calcium deposits forming on the bottom of your heel. These deposits take a while to build up, meaning pain sets in gradually.
- Arthritis. Arthritis is inflammation in a certain joint, including those near the heel. Arthritis can also lead to heel pain by causing excess pressure to be placed on the heel area due to weakened joints in another area of the body.
- Achilles tendinitis. This condition is characterized by inflammation and irritation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It often causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in the back of the leg, just above the heel.
There are many different treatment options when it comes to heel pain, mostly because there are many different causes. Not every treatment will help in every heel pain situation, so try different options and see what works for your heel pain.
It’s worth trying simple solutions for your heel pain first:
- Icing, stretching, massaging, and rest. Heel pain is often able to be cured through traditional pain relief techniques. A combination of icing, stretching, and massaging your heel and surrounding areas, with as much rest as possible, can often alleviate or eliminate symptoms entirely.
- New shoes. Sometimes, treating heel pain is as simple as buying a new pair of shoes. Shoes with high heel drop (where the heel is elevated slightly above the front of the shoe) can transfer pressure to the front of the foot and therefore relieve heel pain.
- Advil and Aleve. For quick relief, an anti-inflammatory over-the-counter (OTC) drug can provide a few hours of comfort. However, these drugs should not be used as a long-term solution, and they only cover up the symptom of pain rather than address the root cause of heel pain.
- Heel inserts. Certain shoe inserts will provide additional cushioning and support to the heel. You can find heel inserts at most pharmacies.
Some treatments for heel pain can’t be performed at home:
- Diabetic shoes and foot care. Diabetes can lead to various other health problems, including heel pain. If you suffer from both diabetes and heel pain, our specialist will be able to determine if your diabetes is causing your heel pain, then give you solutions to alleviate the problem.
- Custom orthotics. Custom orthotic shoe inserts are specially designed devices that are individually crafted to provide personalized support and alignment for your feet. These inserts are custom-made to fit the unique contours of your feet, helping to alleviate pain, correct biomechanical issues, and improve overall foot function.
- Surgery. Sometimes, heel pain can be treated only through surgery. Our specialist will be able to accurately diagnose the root cause of your heel pain and recommend surgical procedures that can help fix the problem and remove your pain.
If you’re experiencing heel pain in or around East Bay, CA, you may want to book an appointment with Dr. Yuko Miyazaki if you encounter any of the following problems:
- Your at-home treatments aren’t working. Starting with simple treatments is a good first step, but if you don’t get results, you may need Dr. Miyazaki to either help you get on an at-home treatment plan that works for you in particular or recommend different treatment methods.
- Your heel pain is worsening over time. If heel pain is left untreated, it can cause significant damage to your feet, and surgery may end up being your only option.
- Your heel pain is unbearable. If you’re experiencing significant pain and your life is becoming affected, skip the guesswork of at-home treatments and see Dr. Miyazaki immediately.
Once you contact us and come in for an appointment, we’ll help you figure out the root cause of your heel pain and help you treat it quickly and effectively. Solving your heel pain once and for all is a truly great feeling—give us a call at (510) 647-3744 to book your appointment today.