Causes Of Heel Pain – Common Reasons For Foot Pain

There are many different causes of heel pain and factors that can lead to problems developing – and not all of them are related to real injuries.

We have evolved into a being that walks “heel to toe” planting the heel down first with each step.  You poor heel actually take a real beating, with over 3 times your body weight bearing down on it with each step.  You can only imaging the stress the heel will be under if you are running or playing sports too.

According to data from Medscape, approximately 10% of the US population will experience heel pain and by the age of 55, you have covered an average of 75,000 miles on your feet, so we need to be able to understand why it happens, what the symptoms are and what we can do about it.

What are the common symptoms of painful heels?

There are a wide range of symptoms that can occur related to pain in the heel. The most commonly found symptoms are presented in one of the following ways.

Painful heels in the morning.

A very common symptom of heel pain is that the sufferer will notice it more first thing in the morning when getting out of bed. Overnight, the pain will reduce due to the feet being rested, but as soon as you put your feet on the floor, the pain will return – sometimes with a vengeance!

You may also have this pain if you suffer from Plantar Fasciitis too.

Tenderness and swelling.

It could be that you are not even aware that you have an issue with your heels, until you notice that your foot may be bruised, swollen or tender to the touch. This may be a sign that a foot problem is starting or that you have a problem you need to address sooner rather than later.

Catching painful feet problems earlier and speaking to your doctor or podiatrist will help you heal faster and increase recovery times.

General pain.

If you imagine your heel like a clock face, with your toes pointing up to number 12, this will help identify a cause of any pains you have. If you are getting pain around the number 12 area, it sounds like you may have plantar fasciitis.

Pain towards the back of the heel (at number 6 on the clock face) may be an indication of problems with the achilles tendon or heel spurs. Pains around the sides of the heel (numbers 3 or 9) can be related to bad shoe support or temporary damage that can be healed with rest and ice.

Sometimes, your feet just hurt from walking too much or standing or being on your feet for long periods of time (something that waitresses suffer from).  In this case, some relaxation, rest and ice or massage will work wonders.

Numbness.

If you trap a nerve anywhere in your body, the usual symptom will be shooting pains and possibly a numb or tingling feeling in that area. This is the same for the foot or heel and can relate to a nerve being trapped or constricted in some way.

However, it could also relate to tarsal tunnel syndrome too, so it will be worth getting it checked by a doctor, just in case.

Common causes of heel pain – the usual suspects.

Poor choice of shoes.

Shoes that do not fit correctly or offer the correct level of support for your feet can lead to heel pain or other problems such as Plantar Fasciitis. Ideally, your shoes should offer cushioning and support to the ball of the foot and heel area.

If this is not in place, it can cause many different types of mechanical related injuries and pains.

We have written an extensive article about the best shoes to stop heel pain which contains everything you need to look for when buying a new pair shoes.

Exercise.

Any type of sport or physical activity can be one of the main causes of heel pain due to the additional stress and strain applied to that area. Although exercise if good for you, pushing yourself beyond what might be normal for your body can lead to foot problems or injury.

Stretching before and after exercise is recommended as this will help keep your joints, muscles and tendons supple, reducing the risk of an injury.

Bursitis.

Although you may not feel the pain directly on your heel, sore feet may indicate that you have bursitis.  Although bursitis usually affects other parts of the body, the small sacs of fluid that act as a cushion can become inflamed.  Again, it will be a good idea to see your doctor as soon as possible.

This video from Correct Toes gives a great explanation of Infracalcaneal Bursitis and the difference between it and Plantar fasciitis (which we will come on to in a moment).

However, this could simply be because of weight problems.  Don’t forget – your feet support the entire weight of your body and if you are a little on the heavy side, your feet will be first to complain.

If any foot pain persists, please see your doctor for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of the causes of heel pain.

Plantar Fasciitis.

painful heels plantar fasciitis or bursitisIf you are experiencing pain and discomfort directly on the heel or pain in the heel of the foot or in the arch of your foot, you could be suffering from Plantar Fasciitis.  Put simply, this problem is a inflammation and swelling of the plantar fascia tissue that links from your heel bone, across the sole of your foot to your toes.

You may find that the pain is worse first thing in the mornings as the fascia tissue has contracted overnight, making each step painful.

Doing simple exercises each day or using a frozen ice bottle to roll under your feet help enormously.

Read our article about plantar fasciitis here.

Heel Spurs.

It is not uncommon for people who have suffered from Plantar Fasciitis to also get heel spurs, possibly one in each heel. I suffered terribly with these for about 2 years.  To help with the pains, I purchased 2 half shoe orthotics, and made sure that I used them at all times and it took about 3 months for the discomfort to go.

Heel spurs are build-ups of calcium where the plantar fascia tissue does not quite join to the bone and they look a little like a claw. The orthotics were the only thing that helped me deal with the soreness and pain.

I did not want to opt for having an operation or injections which I have heard can be quite painful. It might also be an idea to not use tight or high heeled shoes if you have heel spurs.

How to treat heel spurs.

If you have to purchase full fitting shoes. try getting them at a half size bigger.  This will help you fit the orthotics more easily.  Try and make use of Trainers with the orthotics in at all times – ideally, use orthotics in all of your shoes.

The orthotic helps raise and support your plantar fascia directly underneath the part of the foot where the heel meets the arch of your foot. These help the heel’s supporting area and provides natural structural reinforcements to prevent any collapse or problems of the sole of the foot. They are easy to find and you can purchase them from a local drugstore.

This video gives a really good overview of plantar fasciitis and heel pain and what can be done to help relieve the pain.

Rest.

Allowing your feet to rest can provide great relieve against the condition. You should also reduce the duration and intensity of your activities that involves your feet.

Exercise.

There are various exercises that can also help alleviate the condition, such as mild stretches to strengthen the calf and foot muscles. These exercises can also help reduce the pressure on the heel by strengthening it and increasing the flexibility of all adjacent muscles.

Cold and heat therapy.

When experiencing pain, try rolling an iced bottle or ice cubes wrapped in a towel onto the affected foot. You should continue using ice for a couple of days until you do not feel any pain at all.

In case the pain is chronic, heat treatment is recommended to reduce the inflammation due to the condition.

Curcumin Extract.

Supplements containing curcumin or turmeric are proven beneficial against heel spur. The supplement should be consumed at 500 mg daily for 6 weeks. This should also be taken while the stomach is empty if you want to achieve the best result.

Buy Curcumin Extract from Amazon.com via this link.

Linseed Oil.

This is also a popular treatment for heel spurs. To use this, simply take a piece of cheese cloth, dip in into warmed linseed oil and wrap it around the affected foot. Leave it there for a couple of hours. In order to keep the cloth hot or warm, you can apply heat on it from time to time using a heating pad.

Linseed oil is available from Amazon via this link.

Weight loss.

If you are obese or you have excessive amount of weight on your body, trying to lose weight can help reduce the pressure on your plantar fascia, thus relieving heel spur condition.

Avoid walking barefoot.

Slippers and shoes are made to protect the foot, so as much as possible, you should avoid walking barefooted. If your work requires the use of high heels, it would be best to use an arch support or a heel cup for proper cushioning and to reduce the amount of weight that is placed on your feet.

There are pain relief medications that you can also opt for against the causes of heel pain, as well as anti-inflammatory medicines. Then again, excessive use of these can result to various side effects. In case the home treatments mentioned above cannot provide any positive results against the condition, seeking your physician’s help is necessary for proper treatment.

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