Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis Guide

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Ever woken up one morning, felt a painful twinge in your foot, and wondered, “Why does my heel hurt?” It really sucks when a random pain springs up in your feet.

Unexplained pains in particular suck to deal with, since at least with stepping on a LEGO, you know the reason why your foot suddenly feels like a red-hot poker is being jabbed into it.

Plantar fasciitis

By Esther Max (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 licence)

If LEGOs are not the cause of your pain, you might be wondering: where is the pain in my heel coming from? Anyone that works on their feet or has places to be and people to see need to quickly alleviate such pains.

Heel pain when walking is pretty common among our population. It’s such a common affliction, in fact, that over 2 million cases are treated a year in America alone.

The most common cause for pain in the heel of the foot is plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of tissue at the bottom of the foot. One in ten people develops plantar fasciitis. It is so abundant that it accounts for a sixth of all foot problems.

Good news is that, because plantar fasciitis does the rounds frequently, doctors know quite a lot about it.

Let’s get to it!

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis


When a sore heel has gone untreated and evolved into a case of plantar fasciitis, there will be a sharp, shooting pain in the foot. The pain can increase after extended periods of being on your feet, like exercise or walking.

Pain can also intensify after resting, as the muscle is flexed or stretched for the first time after no activity. Pay close attention to how your pain reacts to movement, rest, and extended activity.

Particularly bad cases of plantar fasciitis can cause noticeable swelling to occur as well. Muscles can become inflamed after long bouts of being on your feet too.

Basically, if the pain is persistent and worsens in the instances mentioned above, it is time to see a doctor.

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

Considering how much time we spend on our feet, any kind of foot pain is a real annoyance. It makes not only working difficult but just keeping up with daily errands and chores harder as well.

Socializing takes a hit too, as walking makes the pain worse and deepens the severity of the plantar fasciitis.

Learning what causes this condition can be the first step to keeping your heels pain free!

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is a foot pain specific to the plantar fascia muscle. Pain occurs when too much pressure or strain is repeatedly placed upon this muscle, causing inflammation, tears in the muscle, and discomfort.

Strain on a muscle like this can come from many of the activities that leave you standing on your feet for extended periods of time.

Athletes and those that work in retail run a higher risk of developing heel pain purely because of how much time they spend upright.

These activities are not the only reason why you may be experiencing bottom of heel pain. There are a fair few factors that, alone or together, are heel pain causes. Sometimes, it just comes down to how you walk.

back of heel pain

If you have a limp, an unusual gait, or flat feet without a true arch, this can put unnecessary pressure on the heel. Even just walking around the office can cause pain to develop.

Improperly fitted footwear causes all sorts of problems, not just ingrown toenails and corns, and this includes heel pain. Think of it this way: if your feet are not supported properly, then the pressure placed on your feet while walking is not distributed evenly, straining certain muscles more than others.

Obesity is a big factor in heel pain as well. The more pressure put on the heel, the easier it will be for the plantar fascia to become stressed and inflamed.

Finally, those with diabetes and arthritis can stress the plantar fasciitis due to side effects of both disorders, such as how arthritis can impair movement in the joints.

How to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis

Prevention is key for minimizing heel pain! Stopping it from forming altogether is the best way to halt plantar fasciitis from adversely affecting your life.

Of course, when a pain does start to flare up in your heel, it can be useful to try the following ideas to stop a faint pain from developing into a true case of plantar fasciitis.

Lifestyle Changes

In reality, a few lifestyle changes can be the difference between living with or without this discomfort.

There are some careers that are not easy on your poor feet. Retail workers, teachers, nurses, and others spend hours walking around without a break. In cases like this, rest your feet during breaks and improve your posture. Yes, it helps! Of course, if any pain starts to worsen, it could be time to look for a career change.

The best cure for plantar fasciitis is rest. If that isn’t possible, you are looking at a continuously worsening pain in your heels. Speaking with your manager or HR is also an option, especially armed with a doctor’s orders, for seeking out alternative work arrangements within your career.

The easiest lifestyle change to make is how you exercise. Jogging and walking puts a lot of pressure on the muscles in your feet.

Taking up yoga, swimming, or other types of exercise that are less straining on your heels can be a great way to prevent plantar fasciitis from both forming and worsening. Simple changes can make a big difference!

Don’t underestimate the little things!

Proper Footwear

Shoe shopping was always a bit of an ordeal at the start of every school year. As an adult, you better understand why your parents made you get shoes a size too big; too-small shoes are painful and uncomfortable.

As we said before, ill-fitting shoes in general cause a plethora of problems in your feet. Investing in good shoes, for work and exercise, will stop many issues from popping up down the line, as they’ll support all the muscles in your feet, distributing weight and pressure evenly.

If new shoes aren’t in the budget, then a pair of orthopedic inserts are a good alternative. Aside from everyday comfort, this will help keep plantar fasciitis from forming.

Medical Professional Help

Depending on your personal situation, there may be different solutions that medical professionals such as your GP or podiatrist can help with.

If diabetes, arthritis, or obesity contribute to your heel pain, then book in an appointment with your doctor. They may have a specific health plan or medication that will help ease the strain off of your heels.

Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Pain Treatment Options

heel pain treatment

Rest

This may be shocking to read, but the best cure for plantar fasciitis is rest. A stressed muscle will not get better without being allowed to chill out and relax.

When the pain starts to set in for hours at a time, or springs up after you first stretch in the morning, it is time to start cutting down on how long you spend on your feet.

Periods of rest will help no matter the severity of the pain; however, rest on its own will only stop the pain from returning if the plantar fasciitis is in its earliest stages.

If the pain hasn’t disappeared within two weeks of consistent resting, then it’s time to add another treatment to the routine.

Stretching

Stretching or massaging stressed muscles helps with cramping and eases the pain. A simple exercise that you can do while seated is to roll a tennis ball back and forth under the sole of your foot.

There are other stretches that can help, most of which involve stretching out your calves and feet with various yoga positions.

A pose for beginners is the Reclining Hand to Big Toe; you’ll need a strap of non-elastic material. Lay on your back with one leg extended straight and your toes pointing to the sky.

Wrap the strap around the arch of your other foot, keeping the ends of this material firmly in your hands, and slowly stretch your leg up.

Keep going until your heel is parallel to the ceiling. You will get the most out of this pose if you open the chest and keep your shoulders flat on the ground.

Get Better Shoes

Regardless whether or not improper footwear caused your sore heels, swapping out your old kicks for a new pair, perhaps with orthopedic inserts, will do you some good.

It may also be worth it to look at how you walk and run too. All sorts of things can affect the way you walk, from injuries to the soles of your shoes being worn away.

Popping into a shoe specialist who can scan your foot, thus seeing where the most pressure is applied, will allow them to recommend the best shoes to alleviate your pain.

Here’s a video showing more treatment examples for plantar fasciitis.

If Left Untreated, Plantar Fasciitis Will…?

Untreated, plantar fasciitis will continue to worsen, causing constant shooting pain and inflammation in your heel.

Eventually, such pain will hamper your everyday life. Heel pain will affect your health, as you cannot exercise without pain, and lead to hip, back, and knee pain as you walk with bad posture to keep the pressure off your sore heel.

Plantar fasciitis is a terrible condition that many people live with. Good news is, there are treatments and therapies that will ease the pain and prevent it from returning. It’ll just take time!


Do you have any tips for dealing with plantar fasciitis and heel pain? 

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