Heel pain is a common condition that is usually the result of abnormalities in the way we walk (faulty biomechanics). This can place too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues that attach to it.
The pain may also result from injury to one of the soft tissues that attach to the heel i.e. - Plantar Fascia or Achilles Tendon; a bruise that has developed while walking; running or jumping on hard surfaces; impingement or injury of a nerve in the area; bone trauma; wearing poor footwear; or being significantly overweight. Arthritis and diabetes can also contribute to heel pain.
♦ Plantar Fasciitis:
Symptoms are usually noticed when first taking steps after resting off the feet (i.e. sitting) or sleeping. This is due to the plantar fascia (long band of tissue that connects the heel and the 'ball' of the foot - see Fig. 1) contracting during this period of non weight-bearing (i.e. sleeping for 8 hours) to then quickly having to be stretched / elongated whilst weight-bearing (i.e. walking to bathroom)... this increases tension thus possible tearing & subsequent pain.
In most cases this type of pain is specifically related to Plantar Fasciitis, but if this degree of Plantar Fascia tension is placed on the heel bone (Calcaneus) long enough, then excess bone growth will develop where there may develop a Heel Spur (bone growth - see Fig. 2)... which may become large enough to be then become a symptomatic Heel Spur (which then may require surgery to resolve).
Inflammation, at the bottom of the heel bone and/or sometimes in the arch of the foot, is caused by the Plantar Fascia becoming stressed when the arch of the foot collapses and the foot elongates via the action of pronation (excessive rolling inwards).
This can be due to the following:
- Faulty mechanics.
- Spending a lot of time on your feet.
- Walking or running on hard surfaces.
- Wearing poor, inappropriate or worn-out footwear.
- Tight calf muscles.
- Massage the bottom of the foot from the ball of the foot to the heel, either with your fingers or via moving your foot backwards and forward over a cylinder-type object on the ground, e.g. rolling pin or can.
It may be also beneficial to massage the bottom of your foot with a block of ice. In this case, I recommend freezing some water in a small cup and taking the ice out and massaging the foot whilst holding the ice with a towel. You can also massage the plantar fascia with one of the common foot massage devices which have rollers present.
- Calf stretches are also recommended as tight calf muscles can reduce the range of motion of the ankle joint and subsequently induce pronation of the foot, thus directing stress to the Plantar Fascia.
- If pronation is excessive, then the most successful long-term treatment is the use of orthotics which are prescribed to reduce pronation and reduce arch collapse of the feet; subsequently taking stress off the Plantar Fascia.
- Strapping (Low Dye technique) applied to the foot can be an effective short term solution to relieve stress and elongation directed to the Plantar Fascia.
- I'm not a much of a fan of strapping but the following link for the Low Dye technique of strapping can be very effective in gaining short term relief of Plantar Fasciitis. Instructions / diagrams found here (link).
- See also...