Heel Pain Causes & Treatment

Heel pain is one of the most common conditions that our podiatrists treat. Heel pain is not only common, but is often times be debilitating and can stem from a variety of causes.

Female foot heel pain with red spot, plantar fasciitis

What causes heel pain? 

There are many causes of heel pain including:

  • Increased activity
  • Increased stress on the feet from heavy lifting or carrying a baby
  • Increased weight gain
  • Wearing shoes with poor support or wearing no shoes at all

Where does heel pain occur on the foot?

Heel pain often occurs on the back of the heel where the Achilles tendon attaches. The heel will often get sore, swollen or stiff walking from bed or prolonged inactivity.  Pain can also occur at the bottom of the heel  where the the planter fascia attaches.  Walking or standing for long periods of time will aggravate heel pain.

What are the best shoes for heel pain?

Heel pain sufferers should always wear shoes while recovering from this condition. Here are some tips on the do's and do not's of wearing shoes while you have heal pain.

  • Never go barefoot
  • If you are female, wear a high-heel, which alleviates strain on the Achilles tendon.
  • Wear supportive athletic shoes
  • Do not wear flip flops or flimsy, flat slippers

What type of activity can someone do when they have heel pain?

  • It is advised that you should not do any running or jumping type of sports during your treatment course. This typically will cause an increase in symptoms.
  • Cross training with biking,  swimming, rowing and even elliptical training is usually acceptable
  • Limit as much walking as possible, work demand permitting,  where a walking boot can be used to offload pressure on the heel.

What are the typical heel pain treatments?

Acute heal pain can be treated using an ice bag, frozen water bottle ,or a bag of frozen peas 2 to 3 times per day for 10 to 15 minutes.

  • Straight-knee and bent-knee calf muscle stretches 2 to 3 times per day.
  • Having a podiatrist cut, fabricate, and dispense an arch padding that is worn around the arch of the foot.
  • Temporarily removing custom orthotic insoles and replacing with a softer over-the-counter insert. A podiatrist-made arch pad is also and option.
  • Corticosteroid injections.
  • Various physical therapy modality treatments such as ultrasound and class III or IV laser treatments.
  • Cross-training without running or jumping.
  • Massage physical therapy treatments.

Heel pain in athletes

Unfortunately it is difficult to continue a full-blown running program when you have heel pain. This is especially true when pain arises from the Achilles or at the base of the heel where the plantar fascia is located. Aggressive, conservative, and holistic approaches are the optimal way to treat heel pain effectively and quickly. 

Cross training like rowing, elliptical training, biking, pool running, strength training, yoga, or pilates are great forms of treatment as well.

Our goal is to get you back to running as quickly as possible. It is not necessary to stop running for 1 to 2 years just because of heel pain. Come in today and ask us how we can get you back on your feet and hit the ground running.

Exercises for heel pain

There are exercises that can be done regularly to help keep your pain from returning and or while you are in the midst of your treatment regimen:

  • Continuous stretching of the gastroc and Soleus muscle which make up the Achilles tendon.
  • Rolling a tennis ball or foot-roller under the arch of the foot.
  • Stretching the fascia by pulling your toes back with your hand.
  • Using a foam roller or stick to message the calf muscles.

How to treat heel pain quickly

Unfortunately if acute heel pain is gone unchecked for quite some time,  it can often lead to a more chronic debilitating situation. Chronic plantar fasciitis or chronic insertional Achilles tendinitis  (which we call tendinosis  or fasciosis ) creates changes in the tissue. This includes thickening of tissue, tearing, scar tissue, and possible swelling or redness.

When this occurs, diagnostic imaging is very helpful to determine if there is a tear or excessive thickening in the tissue. Treatments can still be taken care of conservatively however more diligent care and compliance is very important.

Our office has a very aggressive but conservative chronic protocol that includes physical therapy and heat and deep tissue work and different types of injection care. We can also perform extracorporal shock wave treatments to either heel area as well. This is a non-invasive approach to stimulating and encouraging collagen production which can repair the damaged tissue.

Contact Us

Get your heel pain under control today with the help of Gurnee Podiatry & Sport Clinic. You can call us directly at 847-263-6073 or complete our online form, and one of our staff members will be in touch with you shortly.