Heel pain can be tricky to diagnose. The cause could be a simple strain, or it might mean something more serious is going on. What is certain is that the cause of your heel pain needs to be identified, so a podiatrist can start you on an appropriate treatment plan. There are various causes of heel pain, and how to treat them depends on your specific condition and needs.
Common Causes of Heel Pain
Heel pain isn’t always caused by a medical condition. For example, if you stand on your feet for long periods of time, overuse your feet during long walks or marathons, or wear poorly fitting or high-heeled shoes, your feet, especially your heels, may become sore and achy. However, there are medical conditions that can be the root cause of heel pain.
Common Medical Conditions That Might Cause Your Heel Pain
- Plantar fasciitis. One of the most common sources of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. This condition occurs when the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs from your heel bone to your toes, becomes inflamed due to excessive stress or overuse. The inflammation in this area can cause sharp shooting pains in the heel, which may spread up to the arch and toes. If you experience plantar fasciitis, you may feel pain in your heel when you first get out of bed in the morning or after spending long periods sitting down. Other symptoms include swelling, burning sensations, and redness around the affected area. To treat plantar fasciitis, a podiatrist may recommend stretching exercises specifically designed for this condition and the use of ice packs to reduce inflammation. Taking ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medications may also help relieve symptoms.
- Achilles tendinitis. Achilles tendinitis is another leading cause of heel pain caused by inflammation of the Achilles tendon. This tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bones. The pain associated with Achilles tendinitis often feels like a sharp stabbing sensation that increases with physical activity such as running or jumping or during periods of prolonged standing or walking. Resting your feet and applying ice are two essential treatments for Achilles tendonitis, along with wearing supportive shoes and using orthotics to provide extra cushioning for your feet when needed. Surgery may be necessary in extreme cases when these remedies fail to provide relief from symptoms.
- Heel spurs. Heel spurs are bony growths that can cause pain when they rub against other tissues when you move. These spurs develop when calcium deposits build up on the underside of your heel bone, which can lead to painful inflammation and swelling around the affected area. Heel spurs are usually caused by excessive weight-bearing activity, such as running or jogging on hard surfaces, but can also be caused by flat feet or high arches. Both put more pressure on certain parts of the foot than others. Treatment for heel spurs typically involves wearing arch support inserts or orthotics and taking anti-inflammatory medications to reduce any swelling and pain. Surgery is rarely necessary except in cases where there is severe damage to the surrounding tissue due to a large spur near nerves or joints.
- Bursitis. Bursitis occurs when one or more of the small fluid-filled sacs (bursae) in your feet becomes inflamed due to pressure or friction. Bursitis typically causes tenderness, swelling, and redness around the back of your ankle, making it painful to walk on hard surfaces without proper footwear support. Often, rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication are all that are needed to treat bursitis. For some patients, physical therapy can help, as well as changing the type of shoes they wear. Some may find relief by placing heel cups or inserts inside their shoes.
Diagnosing and Treating Heel Pain
It’s important to see a podiatrist at the first sign of heel pain or if you experience more serious symptoms. These can develop into dangerous complications.
Watch for These Symptoms With Heel Pain
- Severe or sudden pain
- Redness in the heel
- Swelling in the heel
- Difficulty walking due to pain
A podiatrist can diagnose your condition after giving your feet a physical exam. They may also order imaging tests such as X-rays and MRIs to confirm the diagnosis or rule out anything more serious that could require physical therapy or surgery. Common treatments for heel pain include:
- Anti-inflammatory pain medication
- Night splints
- Orthotics or shoe inserts
To help prevent heel pain, you should wear shoes that fit properly, provide adequate support, and are right for your activity. In addition, it’s always a good idea to stretch before exercising.
Contact Our Austin Heel Pain Podiatrists
If you are experiencing heel pain, contact our experienced podiatrists at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists for an evaluation today. We can provide various advanced treatment options based on your individual needs. To schedule an appointment, contact us online, or call our office at 512-328-8900.