Each mile you walk puts a great deal of stress on your feet and, although they can handle a heavy load, too much stress can push them over their limits. Whether it’s running, jumping, walking on hard surfaces, playing sports, or wearing ill-fitting shoes, your activity may lead to heel pain.
A sore heel will usually improve on its own if you give it enough rest. However, many people ignore the initial signs of heel pain and continue doing the activities that caused it. When you continue to walk on a sore heel, it will only get worse and could become a chronic condition leading to more problems.
Heel pain usually affects the bottom or back of your heel. The most common causes of heel pain are heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, excessive pronation, and Achilles tendinitis.
Pain Under the Heel
If you are experiencing pain under your heel, you may have one or more of the following conditions that inflame tissues on the bottom of your foot:
- Plantar fasciitis: This pain is centered under your heel and may be mild at first but can flare up when you take your first few steps in the morning.
- Heel spurs: When plantar fasciitis continues for a long time, a heel spur may form. While heel spurs may appear large and painful on an x-ray, the spur itself is not likely to cause pain.
- Excessive pronation: As you walk, the heel contacts the ground first; the weight shifts first to the outside of the foot, then moves toward the big toe. The arch rises, the foot generally rolls upward and outward, becoming rigid and stable in order to lift the body and move it forward. Excessive pronation—excessive inward motion—can create an abnormal amount of stretching and pulling on the ligaments and tendons attaching to the bottom back of the heel bone.
Pain Behind the Heel
If you have pain behind your heel, you may have inflamed the area where the Achilles tendon inserts into the heel bone. The following is a brief overview:
Achilles tendinitis: Pain in the back of the heel. People usually get this by running too much or wearing shoes that rub or cut into the back of the heel. This condition can build slowly over time and lead to inflammation, pain, and the possible growth of a bone spur on the back of the heel bone.
Other possible causes of heel pain include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of arthritis, including gout
- An inflamed bursa, including bursitis, a neuroma, or other soft-tissue growth
- Haglund’s deformity
- A bone bruise or contusion
How Can I Prevent Heel Pain?
A variety of steps may be taken to avoid heel pain and accompanying afflictions, including the following:
- Wear shoes that fit well—front, back, and sides—and have shock-absorbent soles, rigid shanks, and supportive heel counters. Do not wear flip-flops or high heels.
- Wear the proper shoes for each activity. Do not wear shoes with excessive wear on the heels or soles.
- Warm up and do stretching exercises before and after any exercise.
- Pace yourself when you participate in athletic activities.
- Don’t underestimate your body’s need for rest and good nutrition.
- If you are obese, losing weight can help prevent heel pain.
If you experience persistent ankle or heel pain, request an appointment now. Feet shouldn't hurt all the time, and if they do, it may indicate injury, irritation, or illness.