Definition & Facts
Heel pain pain can be sharp and knife-like or feel similar to a tearing sensation along the bottom of the heel. As time goes on, this pain may spread all the way up to the back of the leg. Many people who report heel pain first notice it when putting weight on the foot while getting out of bed in the morning or standing up after sitting for a long period of time.
Motions that make the foot flatten out more than it should can cause this ligament to stretch excessively, resulting in small tears occurring at the point where the ligament attaches to the heel bone. The excessive tension on the ligament as the plantar fascia pulls away from its position on the heel bone is what triggers heel pain in this case. Footwear that causes constant over-flattening of the foot will in many cases cause the development of plantar fasciitis.
Another cause of heel pain is heel bursitis which is inflammation located on the back of the heel bone where a bursa or fluid sac is located. This is caused by awkward landings, pressure from poorly fitting footwear, or hard landings on the heels. In many cases, the pain is felt deep inside or towards the back of the heel. Having flat feet can also exacerbate the problem.
Gout can also cause heel pain, which is a condition stemming from the buildup of uric acid in the blood. When levels become too high, this acid can form crystals which cut into and cause pain in and around the joints.
When to see a doctor
Treatment & Therapy
Heel pain can be treated in stages and include stretching the calf muscle is important, taking anti-inflammatory medicines and experimenting with over-the-counter heel cushions and arch supports. A second stage of treatment could consist of more calf muscle stretches, injection of cortisone, and orthopedic foot taping in order to support the arch.
If the heel pain returns, the use of a functional foot orthotic may be recommended. These are special devices fitted by podiatrists and placed into shoes as an arch support and can prevent abnormal pronation of the foot and the subtalar joint.
Prevention & Prophylaxis
In addition, walking barefoot on hard ground should be avoided and if a physical activity such as running is undertaken, athletic shoes should be replaced at regular intervals. Stretching after every athletic session is crucial to avoiding injury.