Understanding the causes of heel pain
The human foot is a remarkable structure composed of numerous bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments that work together to support our bodies and enable us to walk, run, and perform various activities.
The heel, in particular, plays a crucial role in weight-bearing and locomotion. With an increase in activity, this means that the heel is prone to its fair share of ailment-related pain. But what are the most common causes of heel pain, and how can you treat it?
The anatomy of the foot and heel
To fully understand the causes of heel pain, it’s important to take a look at the anatomy of the foot and heel first in order to pinpoint common problem areas.
The foot consists of 26 bones, with the heel bone, known as the calcaneus, being the largest and most significant when it comes to heel pain. Other important bones include the tarsal, metatarsal, and phalangeal bones, which form the arches and structure of the foot.
Several joints within the foot and ankle contribute to mobility and stability. The subtalar joint, where the calcaneus and talus bones meet, allows for inversion and eversion movements of the foot. Inversion is the inward turning of the foot, and eversion is the outward turning of the foot. These movements help control balance and foot positioning.
Tendons and ligaments
Tendons are strong, fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones, allowing for movement. In the foot and heel, the Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf muscles to the calcaneus, is important. The plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, also plays a key role in maintaining your foot’s arch.
Common causes of heel pain
Heel pain is a prevalent complaint, and several factors can contribute to its development.
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, usually resulting from overuse or excessive strain. This condition often presents as sharp, stabbing pain in the heel, particularly in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
Achilles tendonitis occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed due to repetitive stress or overuse. This can lead to pain and stiffness in the back of the heel, making activities like running and jumping painful.
Heel spurs are bony growths that develop on the underside of the heel bone. They are often associated with plantar fasciitis and can cause intense pain, especially when walking or standing for extended periods.
Heel pain treatment
Effective treatment for heel pain often depends on the underlying cause. A consultation with a podiatrist is essential for accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plans.
Rest and ice
For many cases of heel pain, rest and applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Reducing or modifying activities that exacerbate the pain is often recommended.
Physical therapists can provide exercises and stretches to improve flexibility and strength in the foot and calf muscles, promoting proper biomechanics and reducing strain.
Custom insoles from your podiatrist can provide better arch support and cushioning, relieving pressure on the heel and reducing pain.
Risk factors and prevention
Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of experiencing heel pain, including obesity, overuse, improper footwear, and poor biomechanics.
Maintain a healthy weight
Excess body weight places additional stress on the feet and can exacerbate heel pain. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can reduce this risk.
Choose supportive footwear
Invest in shoes that provide adequate arch support, cushioning, and shock absorption. Avoid high heels or shoes with inadequate arch support for extended periods.
Gradual increase in activity
If you're starting a new exercise regimen or increasing your activity level, do so gradually to allow your feet to adapt and avoid overuse injuries.
Heel pain treatment with City Foot Health
If you’re suffering from persistent, unexplained heel pain, it’s time to consult a podiatrist. At City Foot Health, our team of experts will help to get you back on your feet.Book a consultation with us to find out the cause of your heel pain. In the meantime, browse our treatment pricing list, and get in touch with us to find out more today.