Have you ever woken up, taken that first step, and felt a shooting pain running through your foot? How about when you go grocery shopping and find yourself leaning on your cart more than you’re pushing it? Heel pain affects most people at least once in their lives, and though it can be nagging, debilitating, and often simply irritating, it can be overcome. In this post, I take a look at the most common causes for heel pain and what to do about them.
Because heel pain affects our daily activities – walking the dog, going for a jog, cleaning the house, or commuting to work – it makes sense to have a closer look at how we DO those activities, just in case they may be the culprits aggravating our discomfort. In truth, the heel pain you experience is often the result of accumulative stress placed on the foot, incorrect posture, or consistent over-exertion. Take a look at the 6 most common causes of heel pain, all of which often relate directly back to our daily activities:
- Incorrect Footwear – This is a very important part of why your heel might be sore. Footwear plays an essential role in supporting your foot and ankle; if you are wearing worn out soles, ‘minimalist’ training shoes, or high-heeled shoes on a daily basis, then it’s time to re-evaluate your footwear.
- Prolonged Stress Placed on the Foot as a Result of Over-Excursion – If you work at a job that demands physical activity, lifting weights, or carrying boxes, the daily, accumulative stress placed on your heels could be resulting in pain. In fact, the extra weight is immediately translated into stress on your heel which could, in time, cause serious issues.
- Rapid Increase in Activity Levels – If you’ve decided you’re going to run a marathon, cycle to the next city, or even just double the time you spend walking, then you might have made a common mistake: you’ve increased your activity levels too rapidly. Not allowing your heels to gradually acclimatize to increased activity means that you might experience heel pain.
- Weight – Excess body weight can often play a role in painful heels. Excess weight may well be placing stress and pressure on your heels, thereby causing pain.
- Prolonged Standing – Though prolonged sitting isn’t recommended, hours of standing can be detrimental for your heels, especially if done on hard, unforgiving surfaces such as asphalt or tiles. An increase in the time that you stand results in an accumulation of stress and pressure on your heels, thus causing pain.
- Abnormal Gait or Walking Style – This is an interesting one, and most people don’t even realize that the way they walk, that is, their gait, plays a vital role in heel health. If you roll your foot or walk in an imbalanced way, your heels can be greatly affected, thus often causing pain.
So, now that you know the most common causes, where do you begin on your journey to pain free heels? Remember, small changes make a massive difference when combating accumulative stress on the heel. With this in mind, here are 5 things you can change RIGHT NOW in order to start experiencing pain relief:
- Find the Root Cause of the Pain – If you don’t know WHY your heel is sore, you cannot eradicate the pain permanently. Finding the root cause of your problem sets you at a great advantage for overcoming your pain. Seeing a physical therapist is a great choice, and your visit with him/her will give you the answers you need.
- Assess your Posture and Alignment – Your posture, balance, and alignment, is key to maintaining the health of your heels. Overcompensation on any one side of your body means that one or both heels face excess stress and pressure, thus resulting in pain. Work on your posture and alignment in order to rectify this. See a physical therapist, try Pilates or yoga, and make a conscious effort to assess your posture throughout the day.
- Improve your Gait – As you’ve seen, the way you walk is incredibly important for heel health. Consult a professional physical therapist if you are unsure of your gait and whether or not to rectify it. This is one of the best ways to eradicate heel pain.
- Alter your Footwear – Find footwear that supports and strengthens the heel and foot. Try to avoid high-heeled shoes and gradually introduce new footwear where necessary. Supportive, comfortable shoes are essential when you are training: just remember, acclimatize your foot to the new shoe before increasing your activity levels.
- Increase Activity Levels Gradually – If you are currently excited about physical activity, exercise, or training, but are suffering from heel pain, the best thing you can do is to ease into your activity routine. Start slowly, thereby building up your endurance, muscles, and heel strength, in order to maximize your potential and eradicate pain.
Heel pain can be debilitating. The steps above are some of the ways in which you can overcome your daily struggle. Remember, finding the root cause of your pain is the key to overcoming it, and, as a bonus, it will ensure the maintenance of a pain-free life. And know, too, that heel health is largely dependent on your overall health: a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, an achievable fitness routine, overall balance and posture, and general daily mindfulness, will greatly improve the issue you’re facing.
If you’re currently experiencing heel pain and want some answers to your problem, why not reach out to one of our professional, dedicated physical therapists? We’re here to help and we look forward to addressing your specific problem, today.