Heel pain is an attention grabber. It can debilitate you. It will make you miserable. It will also make your family miserable. After all, you will likely complain about it for months before seeking treatment. The explanations of heel pain are many, only rivaled by the number of treatments you can find online. So what is causing the pain in the bottom of YOUR heel? You should discuss your individual situation with your doctor. However, by having basic knowledge of a few fundamentals, you will be able to have a more educated discussion regarding your condition.
Heel pain is generally caused by an abnormally high amount of stress being exerted across a specific ligament located on the bottom of the foot. This ligament is called the “plantar fascia”. The plantar fascia is a broad, thick ligament similar to a rubber band. This ligament is attached to the heel bone and stretches along the bottom of the foot across the arch. The other end of this ligament then attaches to the ball of the foot.
The location of “typical” heel pain is either directly under the heel itself, or in the area where the arch meets the heel. This is precisely the attachment of the plantar fascia to the heel bone. Unfortunately, this is also the weakest portion of this ligament, and therefore the most commonly injured area. When the plantar fascia is stretched beyond its normal length, microscopic tears can develop. This can happen over many years, in one attention grabbing event, or anywhere in between. Inflammation, pain, and tightness in the heel and arch then follow.
Plantar fascia inflammation, commonly known as plantar fasciitis, may be aggravated by walking barefoot, wearing shoes that lack enough support to remove strain from the plantar fascia itself, or by chronic irritation that can accompany impact activity such as walking, running, and jumping. Read more about support versus shock absorption when choosing insoles here.
Plantar fasciitis is treatable. Conservative treatment has a high success rate of curing heel pain. Unfortunately, the recurrence rate for plantar fasciitis is also quite high. This can be reduced by wearing supportive shoes, and possibly augmenting this support with arch support insoles. A relatively small number of cases of heel pain require advanced treatments such as surgery, laser treatments, or cryotherapy.
Only your doctor can determine if you are a candidate for these types of treatments. Don’t delay evaluation and treatment! The longer heel pain is left untreated, the longer the recovery time will be.