The first signs of a painful heel normally occur after some form of exercise or injury, although its onset can be gradual if it is due to standing on your feet for long periods of time or a gradual weight gain.
It is characterised by the intense pain felt when first standing after sitting for long periods of time or after rising in the morning. This pain generally subsides over time but can re-occur throughout the day.
The term heel pain refers only to people who generally suffer with severe pain at the bottom or at the back of the heel. It occurs because of some kind of impact pressure of the tissues surrounding the heel bone called the Calcanium or from the ligaments and tendons that attach themselves to it.
Plantar fasciitis is the most common form of a painful heel. The plantar fascia ligament joins the toes to the heel via the main arch of the foot and if this is torn in someway at the heel it will give rise to heel pain.
These micro-tears at the heel can occur at any age, from younger sports people to more senior overweight persons. However, it is increasingly seen in those overweight as the additional burden is placed on the plantar fascia ligament after a heavy heel strike when walking or running which eventually tears.
Other possible causes are rheumatoid arthritis or gout. If they occur along the plantar fascia area then they will also cause painful heels.
Several of the common causes are listed below:
- Weight gain and Obesity
- Over Exercise
- Walking in unsuitable footwear such as high heels
- Standing for long periods of time
How to Treat Painful Heels
There are many simple exercises available to exercise and stretch the plantar fascia muscle such as wall push-ups and stair stretches. Massaging and reflexology may also help the pain as well a warm foot bath with essential oils.
Plantar fascia night splints are also an excellent idea and will help keep the plantar fascia ligament stretched overnight so it is not as painful in the morning. Part of the problem is that this ligament relaxes during sleep and so is much more painful under tension when first walked on in the morning.
Changing your footwear or insoles to ones that are more supportive for the arch is one of the best ways you can help yourself, but if the discomfort continues you may need to visit your doctor or chiropodist/podiatrist for further diagnosis and treatment. They may recommend a course of steroid injections into the heel or prescribe a custom orthotic.
The best way to relieve painful heels however is probably just to buy a heel cup made of silicon gel with a softer in a part where the heel is most painful. These will fit in most footwear and available from most chemists and pharmacists. You can read more about how heel cups can help painful heels and calcaneal bursitis by visiting my blog.
Your painful heels should subside with time, however, it normally takes about 6 to 9 months to rectify completely depending on the amount of damage done in the first place so you probably need to tailor your exercise to accommodate the level of pain. Keep your jogging and walking to a minimum until you have sought a solution or further advice.