The American Podiatric Medical Association conducted a study that found nearly 77% of Americans suffer from heel pain, but only about a third of those people seek expert care to alleviate it. Any sort of pain or discomfort can make day to day activities, well… a real pain. Don’t think pain is normal and you should push through, seeking professional help can get you on the path from heel pain to healed pain!
One of the causes of heel pain, especially in runners, is Achilles tendinitis, which results from the overuse and strain of the Achilles tendon. Most commonly caused by repetitive strain on your tendon, the risk for Achilles tendinitis increases with age, higher blood pressure and using worn-out shoes with little support. The most common symptom of Achilles tendinitis is pain on or above the heel. Symptoms typically start gradually with an aching or burning pain that is aggravated by exercise. Some patients might even notice the back of their foot where the tendon runs is warm to touch and slightly enflamed or swollen. Don’t want to worry about Achilles tendinitis? Daily calf stretches, proper shoes and combining low-impact activities into your work out can significantly reduce strain.
Stress Fractures are another cause of heel pain. These are most commonly from repeated excessive stress, but can also come from osteoporosis. By increasing strain too quickly, the bone does not have time to adapt to the increased pressure and this increased pressure can cause tiny cracks and stress points to form a full break or fracture. Unlike plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis which affect soft tissue and tendons, stress fractures happen in the bones of your foot which means stretching and ‘walking it off’ can actually make your pain worse and cause more damage.
Depending on the severity of your pain and damage, there are a variety of ways podiatrists can help. More often than not, rest is a huge factor in recovering from excessive strain and stress fractures. Our feet are used so often and intensely in our day to day lives, it’s difficult for them to recover while in constant use. Lightening workouts or including low-impact elements as mentioned before can also help for those who simply cannot stay off their feet. As always, prevention is more effective than repair! Proper foot wear, listening when your body says “stop!” and staying hydrated are just a few ways to keep you up and going.