There are many different factors that can cause heel pain. A structural imbalance or an injury to the foot can often be the direct cause. However, most frequently the cause is a common condition called Plantar Fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a broad band of fibrous tissue located along the bottom surface of the foot that runs from the heel to the forefoot. These fibers act similar to a spring, and when working properly function as your body’s way of cushioning or absorbing shock. Plantar fasciitis is caused by excessive stretching or tearing of the plantar fascia. It is most common in people who have flat feet (over-pronation) or when the arch is excessively high and ridged. It is usually associated with sharper heel pain immediately upon waking up in the morning or after rest, due to the fact that these fibers will contract when at rest in an attempt to heal.
Treatment and Prevention of Heel Pain
Most heel pain is directly related to your arch type and can be easily treated. When the heel pain is over-pronation related (flat feet), a shoe that has a strong medial counter is recommended to prevent over-pronation. An orthotic designed with a medial heel post and proper arch support may also help in treatment. The shoes and the orthotics work to prevent the over-pronation, which in turn should prevent the excessive hyper-extension of the plantar fascia. When the heel pain is present in a foot with a high or rigid arch, a softer soled shoe is recommended. This will help compensate for the natural cushioning that is lacking due to the rigidity of the plantar fascia. Again, an orthotic with extra medial support and/or a compression sleeve around the arch can help in treatment. In all cases, a stretching routine is recommended that will allow for the gradual limbering of these fibers.
Another condition that can develop usually when plantar fasciitis is untreated is Heel Spurs. Heel spurs develop as an abnormal growth in the heel bone due to calcium deposits that form when the plantar fascia pulls away from the heel. Treatment is similar to what you would expect when treating plantar fasciitis but if the problem persists, consult your foot doctor.