How to Fix Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis
Heel pain is frequently experienced by those who suffer from chronic foot problems. The most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis, which is a condition involving irritation and inflammation of the plantar fascia. Damage to the plantar fascia, the ligament that runs along the base of the toes to the heel bone, occurs when it is strained beyond its ability to repair.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Systemic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can place individuals at a higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis. However, the most common cause of plantar fasciitis is overpronation—an excessive inward rolling of the feet that can cause flat feet. Feet that overpronate have arches that collapse downwards. As this occurs, all of the structures at the bottom of the foot, including the plantar fascia, stretch beyond their normal limits, resulting in microtears and damage.
Am I at risk of developing plantar fasciitis?
Even though most cases of plantar fasciitis occur without an obvious cause, some factors that are linked to an increased risk of developing the condition. These include:
- Heel spurs
- Tight calf muscles and foot muscles
- Increased body weight
- Routinely walking over uneven and hard surfaces
- Prolonged standing, walking, or running
- Activities that place a lot of stress on the heel (e.g. ballet, running, or dancing)
How do I know if I have plantar fasciitis: symptoms of plantar fasciitis
As with any foot condition, we always recommend visiting a healthcare professional, such as a podiatrist, to have your feet assessed first. They will obtain a thorough medical history, take note of your signs/symptoms, and examine your gait to arrive at a proper diagnosis. In some cases, imaging tests (e.g. x-rays, ultrasound imaging, MRI) might also be done to check for heel spurs or swelling of the plantar fascia.
If you have plantar fasciitis, you may be experiencing some/all of the following in addition to heel pain:
- Pain in the affected foot that is worse in the morning (upon wakening)
- Chronic pain in the heel area
- Foot pain that is worse after long periods of rest
What can I do about it: plantar fasciitis treatment
Luckily, there are several ways to treat plantar fasciitis, reduce pain, and promote healing. Some of these methods involve at-home treatment.
To start, individuals with plantar fasciitis are likely in need of arch support. This can be provided via orthotic shoe inserts designed to relieve tension and redistribute pressure underneath the foot. By correcting foot misalignments, such as overpronation, orthotics keep the arches supported and reduce stress on the plantar fascia.
Other treatment options include:
- Rest – Like any other injury, it is important to ensure you are resting your feet and giving them time to heal. Limit any activities that put pressure on your heels.
- Using an ice pack – Ice can be effective at reducing heel pain and decreasing swelling.
- Employing medication – Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be purchased over the counter to reduce pain.
- Strengthening and stretching – Calf stretching can relieve tension in the plantar fascia as tight calm muscles are a major contributor to heel pain. Stretching of the Achilles tendon can also be extremely beneficial.
- Steroid injections – This mode of treatment is usually only considered in cases where the above methods have not shown signs of improvement.