Heel pain is a common foot problem that can improve in a few days, bother you for months or linger for years. Plantar fasciitis is often the culprit, but excess weight, tight leg muscles, overuse, sensitive nerves or simply too much standing can all lead to heel pain. No matter the cause, the solutions to relieve the pain can be simpler than you think.
“The key to treating heel pain is finding the contributing factors to identify the underlying reason causing the pain,” says Shane McClinton, D.P.T., OCS, FAAOMPT, physical therapist at Des Moines University Clinic. “Once we pinpoint the cause, we can find the most efficient and effective solutions. It can be as simple as finding a better-fitting shoe.”
“Orthotics are also beneficial,” says Mindi Feilmeier, D.P.M., FACFAS, podiatrist at Des Moines University Foot & Ankle. “It doesn’t have to be custom-made; in most cases, a well-fitting prefabricated orthotic is effective.”
“A good orthotic and proper shoe fit are important. If you build a house on a sandy foundation, it doesn’t work. You need a solid foundation,” adds McClinton.
Exercise is also an important part of the solution. Your feet may need a temporary break to get over the pain, but prolonged inactivity and limping can cause inflexibility, weakness, nerve sensitivity and an unhealthy foot. It is critical to address the problem right away so that you can gradually resume activity as soon as possible to avoid long-term consequences of inactivity. Both podiatrists and physical therapists can help you find ways to stay active while you heal and provide exercises to regain strength, flexibility and function.
The longer heel pain lasts, the harder it can be to manage.
“The most frustrating thing I see is when someone doesn’t seek a specialist, they can suffer for long periods of time and spend a lot of time and money without having progressed,” Feilmeier says. “If symptoms persist for more than a week, I would recommend seeing a podiatrist who can design a treatment plan to get you on with your life.”
Information provided by Des Moines University Clinic, 3200 Grand Ave., 271-1700.