If you have found yourself staying at home this year more than you ever have before, you’ve probably discovered plenty of positives and negatives about the situation. The effects on your foot and heel pain, however, might have been an unexpected twist!
If your heel pain has actually grown worse over your time spent longer at home – or heel pain has developed where there once was none to worry about – you are not alone. We and other podiatrists have seen an increase in patients describing the same circumstances.
In a year that has been filled with plenty of concerns, this one may not have shone very brightly on the radar. However, that doesn’t mean nothing should or can be done about it!
The Likely Culprit: Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain we see, and spending a lot of time at home has the potential to exacerbate it.
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia (a thick band of tissue that runs along the underside of the foot) becomes overstrained. As a result, the plantar fascia can suffer from tiny tears, as well as inflammation and pain.
One of the more infamous signs of plantar fasciitis is sharp heel pain that occurs after long periods of inactivity. Getting out of bed in the morning can be very painful, and it may take a few moments of moving around for the plantar fascia to “warm up” and the pain to subside.
What Might Make Plantar Fasciitis Worse at Home?
The idea of staying home actually causing more stress on your feet might not make much sense at first. That’s perfectly understandable, but changes to our environment and activities have a way of adding up over time.
Imagine a typical day of going to the office compared to a day at home. What’s different about them?
Did you think about your shoes?
It’s easy not to, of course, but a typical work day involves many hours spent wearing shoes–while staying at home often means going barefoot or socks-only. If your work shoes were properly fitting and supportive of your feet, shifting to a home-based schedule has effectively removed that support.
You might not be missing it that much, but your feet probably are! This can be especially true if you spend a lot of time walking or standing on hard surfaces, such as tile or wood floors.
An additional factor that may be influencing your heel pain is a shift in activity level – either decreasing or increasing.
A decrease in activity level can weaken tissues as well as result in an increase in weight over time, both of which can place excess stress on your arches. On the other hand, if you’ve develop a number of new active hobbies to help you cope with the pandemic, that could lead to heel pain as well if you aren’t careful about building up gradually toward higher levels of activity.
This is not a call for anyone to stop exercising! We love to see you moving more! But there are proper and improper ways to go about it, and doing too much too soon can leave your feet unprepared to take on new demands.
What Can You Do About Plantar Fasciitis at Home?
Ultimately, the most efficient way to address plantar fasciitis and other causes of heel pain is to come see us. We can get to the root causes of your discomfort and recommend the best treatments and lifestyle changes to find relief.
But if you still want to try some changes at home on your own first, here are a few tips that can help. Please note that these tips might not always be fully effective for your particular circumstances. But even if some or all don’t work, that can still provide us some very helpful clues as to the best course of action.
- Start wearing shoes indoors. Start wearing shoes again for at least a few hours per day. Just make sure they fit properly and provide solid support along your entire arch. (You should also clean off the soles, if needed.)
- Give yourself some cushioning. If you find yourself stationed in certain spots with hard flooring for extended periods of time, consider investing in an anti-fatigue mat to take some of the stress off your feet.
- Take some time to stretch and move. Just because your home environment might feel more comfortable than an office doesn’t mean you should stay in one place all day. Make a habit of getting up a few minutes each hour to move and stretch.
- Pace yourself. It is absolutely fantastic if you’ve started running or working out more during this disruptive year, but increasing your activity level too rapidly greatly increases your risk of developing heel pain. Never increase the intensity of your activities by more than 10 percent per week. Additionally, wear the appropriate shoes for your activities and always rest when your body is telling you it needs to.
Get the Help You Need for Heel Pain Now
A change in routine does not have to lead to an increase in discomfort. The sooner the causes of your heel pain are identified and directly addressed, the faster and more effectively you tend to find relief.