Heel pain can make daily life difficult but there are many ways to help with the healing process. Here’s our guide to the causes and symptoms of heel pain and available treatment options.
The causes of heel pain
The plantar fascia is a tissue band that runs under the sole of the foot. Its tough structure helps to cushion the impact of walking, running and daily life, but it can become damaged over time or through injury. When damage occurs it can cause tiny tears to appear in the interior of the tissue, causing it to thicken (also called plantar fasciitis). This then causes it to be painful.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is the thickening of the plantar fascia, the band of tissue that runs under the foot. It’s often the main cause of heel pain.
What are the symptoms?
Heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis may cause:
• Intense pain when placing weight on the heel
• Heel pain to be worse in the morning
• A limp or abnormal walking style to avoid pain
• The heel area to become inflamed
Treatment for plantar fasciitis
Heel pain is very common, particularly in those who do high impact sports such as jogging or sprinting. It’s also more common in people who are 40 years of age or over. Treatment usually involves a combination of techniques and can take up to 12 months to heal.
The methods to help awith recovery are:
• Plenty of rest – avoid putting weight on the area for long periods of time
• Stretching – gentle stretch exercises that involve calf muscles and the heel can help relieve pain
• Wearing the right footwear – properly fitting shoes that cushion the heel are essential
• Painkillers – pain relief such as ibuprofen can help, or use an ice pack wrapped in a towel to help soothe the pain
• Supports – strapping or supports are a good temporary measure
See your GP or podiatrist if:
• Your pain is persistent and doesn’t go after a few weeks
• You experience a tingling or numbness in the foot
• Your foot feels hot and you have a fever
• Your heel is inflamed and stiff
Heel pain can be avoided - here are some tips:
• Maintain a healthy weight – being overweight can put strain on the heel, causing pain
• Invest in good shoes – wear shoes that support and cushion the foot. Ideally they should have a slight heel to help take the pressure off the heel and arches
• Replace sports shoes regularly – particularly if you participate in activities that place additional strain on the feet, such as running
• Listen to your body – if you experience heel pain whilst exercising, rest until your foot feels better before continuing on with the same routine. Also, make sure to stretch after exercise
• Don’t walk on hard ground barefoot
Ask your local Boots Pharmacy team for further advice on products which may be suitable.