Heel pain that comes and goes may seem mysterious, but it's all too common. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one million patients go to see their doctor each year to treat plantar fasciitis, the most common cause of this symptom.
In case you're not already familiar with your plantar fascia, it's the tissue that supports the arch of your foot. When it's overstretched, it can make walking or standing difficult. Usually, you'll notice your first twinge when you plant your feet on the floor in the morning. The sensation may go away after a few steps, but the relief is short-lived.
Left untreated, the effects of plantar fasciitis will spread. However, more than 90% of cases can be solved with simple in-home treatments. Use these tips to find lasting relief.
Preventing Heel Pain
1. Lose weight. While walking is a great way to lose excess pounds, that extra weight can be hard on your feet. The majority of patients with plantar fasciitis are obese. While you're slimming down, ask your doctor about which preventive measures are suitable for you.
2. Change your shoes. Look for styles with firm heel counters and substantial arch support. Check your footwear regularly for signs of wear. A good rule of thumb is to replace walking shoes at least every 300 miles.
3. Stretch your feet and calves. Tight calves and Achilles tendons put strain on your feet as they try to compensate by overdoing their natural rolling motion. Perform stretches that target your calves, as well as your ankles and toes. For example, stand on the edge of the stairs, and lower yourself up and down.
4. Cushion the floor. Do you spend a lot of time standing on hard floors? A pad or rug in your kitchen or in your workplace could help.
5. Rest up. If possible, stop or limit the activities that make your heels hurt. They need a break so they can recover.
6. Vary your workouts. You may still be able to exercise if you change your routine. Go for a swim or ride a stationary bike instead of taking your usual run. Ease back into your former activities gradually to sustain your recovery.
Treating heel pain
1. Ask your doctor. Arthritis and ligament tears can cause heel pain too. Your doctor will check your history and X-ray your feet to diagnose your condition.
2. Be patient. If your feet have been under stress for a long time, they'll take a while to recover. While patients often experience some relief quickly, it may take up to a year to see the full results.
3. Apply ice. Cooling your heels can reduce inflammation and pain. You may also want to try contrast baths, alternating between hot water and ice, and finishing up with ice.
4. Take medication. For fast aid, take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen or naproxen. If your symptoms still persist after several weeks, your doctor may recommend corticosteroid shots.
5. Wear a splint. Night splints that stretch your feet and Achilles tendon overnight are extremely effective. Many studies show they even work for patients whose symptoms are long-standing.
6. See a specialist. If you need further assistance, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedist or podiatrist. You may also want to consult a sports medicine professional who can evaluate whether running or other activities are affecting your condition.
The sooner you start treating plantar fasciitis, the easier it will be to heal your heels. Protect your comfort and mobility by wearing supportive shoes, stretching regularly, and modifying your activities if you notice pain in your heels.