How To Relieve Heel Pain From Standing
We are spending more time on our feet these days. Our modern lifestyle and the high number of service industry jobs need us to be up and about, moving and standing for long periods of time.
It's no wonder that in the US alone, over 10000 people seek help from a podiatrist each year, investigating both foot and heel pain symptoms that originate from standing too much.
The immediate advice will be to rest and stay off of your feet as much as you can, but with our busy home lives, going to the gym and family outings, this is not always possible.
So how can you stop your heels from hurting after standing?
Let's first look at the reasons why you might be getting the pain and then examine how you can treat it yourself.
Why do you get heel pain after standing?
Heel pain can be broken down into two main causes:
- Footwear or shoe related.
- Medical or mechanical related.
The shoes maketh the man (have bad feet).
One of the leading causes of your foot and heel pain is merely the choice of shoes you are wearing.
Footwear without adequate support under the arch or cushioning under the heel area will cause your tissues and tendons to become stretched and damaged, causing pain.
If your shoes are not supporting the arch of your foot, the plantar fascia tissue becomes over-stretched and can quickly become damaged. This type of injury is also hard to repair as you most likely need to be on your feet all day.
Having a good quality pair of shoes will help alleviate the stress on this area and reduce the possibility of pain.
Also, if your shoes are not padded at all inside or have something like a gel pad under the heel area, this constant pressure can cause heel pain.
After all, your feet have to carry your entire weight for nearly the whole day. If your shoes do not protect your feet, it can lead to pain and discomfort.
If you believe that your shoes are not the problem, try using a pair of insoles that will help give you some extra support. They can be found at most drugstores and are not too expensive either.
Use orthotic insoles too.
Insoles are great for getting some additional arch support and heel padding. However, you may need to shop around a little to find the best one for you.
Each insole manufacturer makes them slightly differently, and some will fit your shoes better than others; others will fit your feet better than your shoes - so it may be some trial and error before you find the right pair.
Smaller gel arch supports that are stuck in the middle of your shoe rarely sit in the right place to give the best support.
Before you buy insoles, take them out of the packaging and stand barefoot on them in the store if you can. It is not the most ideal way to tell if they will work but should give you an idea.
Foot mechanics, Plantar fasciitis, and bone spurs.
If you are looking after your feet and wearing proper shoes but are still suffering from heel pain, you could have plantar fasciitis or even worse, bone spurs (Osteophytes).
One common area where you will feel this pain is near to the heel-bone where the plantar fascia tissue attaches.
This band runs from your heel to the ball of your foot and acts as a support to the arch of your foot. Without it, your foot would be flat on the sole and your balance and ability to walk would be impacted.
If this tissue becomes damaged through exercise or wearing the wrong sorts of shoes, it becomes inflamed where it connects to the heel bone.
Damage or tearing of the fascia presents as a stabbing pain that can be made worse by standing too much.
When Plantar Fasciitis "goes bad".
If left untreated, the symptoms of plantar fasciitis can evolve into you having bone spurs. Where your fascia tissue becomes broken and repaired many times, it can lead to a growth of bone which points out like a spur.
This solid growth is very painful, and you would find it hard to walk, let alone stand for several hours.
Bone spurs are also challenging to treat and may involve you having surgery to have the bone growth removed or having to wear specially made shoes with an area cut out to allow the spur not to have any pressure put on it.
It is common for people to ignore heel pain and hope that it will go away on its own, but when you run the risk of getting bone spurs, having treatment as soon as possible is essential.
Tight muscles make standing hard work.
Your Achilles tendons, ankles and calf muscles all play a part in keeping you steady on your feet. If one of these components is not working correctly, it can make you stand or walk incorrectly, leading to pain or injury.
If you visit a podiatrist, they will ask you to walk around barefoot so that they can examine how your feet and ankles move.
Spotting where a foot or ankle rolls to the side or where tight calf muscles might be stopping the proper movement of the ankle can be significant.
If you suffer from back pain, which is another common complaint from people who stand too much at work, it can lead you to settle to one side on your pelvis or have your hips too far forward. This can then lead to an imbalance in your ankles, which is transferred to your feet and ankles.
So as you can see, it is all connected, and one small problem can cause significant issues elsewhere in your body.
How to relieve heel pain from standing.
So, as we have already discussed, there can be various causes of having heel pain from being on your feet all day.
- Bad shoe choices.
- Plantar Fasciitis or bone spurs (Osteophytes).
- Tight muscles.
- Poor posture.
Let's look at these points individually and see how they can be fixed to stop heel pain.
Get proper shoes.
It should be evident if your shoes are old and not provide proper comfort and support for your feet. Also, you probably know that wearing high heels for a job where you are standing all day does not make good sense.
Look to buy some shoes with excellent arch support, heel padding and some shock absorbing material. If you can, get a pair of running shoes or sneakers - these are designed for high-impact sports and are excellent for coping with intensive activities, of which standing can be one - don't forget, just standing burns over 100 calories an hour!
If wearing sneakers is not an option, use a pair of orthotic inserts or insoles. These are cheap and will give you excellent arch and heel support.
I pretty much wear running shoes all of the time now, and it has really helped reduce my heel pain.
Another tip about shoes.
Try not to swap between too many pairs of shoes.
Continually changing the way your foot is supported (or not) can cause foot pains, blisters, and ankle problems.
You may have Plantar Fasciitis.
If you suspect you have plantar fasciitis, read our list of plantar fasciitis symptoms to make sure. You will need to act fast so that it does not get worse.
Many people are crippled by this condition, and it has even ended the careers of professional athletes.
Seeing a podiatrist as quickly as you can is key to managing this condition. Seeing a medical professional sooner will help reduce the time it takes for Plantar Fasciitis to repair itself - it does not always go away on its own.
Stretch those tight leg muscles.
Doing regular stretches will help reduce the tension in your legs, calf muscles and feet.
The best stretch for this is to hang off the stairs by your toes and dip slowly. You should feel the stretch on the back of your heel and calf muscle.
This is usually called the stair stretch exercise or calf stretch exercise. This video shows how to do the stretch and talks about the benefits.
You can do this a few times a day, and it will help reduce tension in your legs, ankles, hips and lower back. If you have a job where you are walking all day and take the stairs, try to walk up using your toes, stretching your calf out as much as you can.
You can also do a similar exercise where you sit on the floor with your leg stretched out in front of you. You then take a towel and hook it around your feet and pull it towards you with both hands.
This "towel stretch" is an alternative to the "stair stretch" method. I have found it to be not as effective though. I didn't seem to get as much force behind the stretch.
Fix your poor posture.
My son is currently receiving treatment for a bad back caused by tight hip flexor muscles and lower back stiffness. His chiropractor said that without treatment he could suffer from ongoing back pain - and he is only 19!
They have found that the cause of this pain is that one of his legs is slightly longer than the other, causing him to have bad posture when he walks and stands. Over the last 19 years, this has lead to the increased tension in his hips, which has lead to back pain.
But, to look at him, you would not know he had one leg longer than the other.
Small problems like this can lead to larger problems if they are left untreated (or undiagnosed).
Having proper fitting shoes with adequate support will help ensure that you are standing correctly. However, try to notice how you are standing and if you are slouching.
If you are standing all day, leaning to one side, resting on your hip or not standing with your shoulders back and chest out may lead to additional tension in your legs and feet.
Go to see a podiatrist who will analyse how you stand and walk.
If anything is found to be wrong, seeing a physiotherapist will help address any mechanical problems with your legs and body. The podiatrist will sort out your foot problems too.