My heel hurts! When to get help and why we ignore the pain

Summer months bring about a plethora of different shoes that we convince ourselves are the most comfortable option to air out our feet. Those flip flops are all too tempting to wear on a sweltering day for a trip to the grocery store or to go for a long walk. While there are sandals that can be supportive to our feet, most of us don’t spend the money on sandals and instead opt for the flatter (and more affordable) flip-flop. And now that summer is over, our heels hurt. Symptoms like pain upon first getting up to walk in the morning or after sitting. Then it becomes pain throughout the day…

We ignore this heel pain as simply being something that will resolve over time now that we are no longer wearing those flip flops we knew were not good for us. And why wouldn’t it resolve, the bad shoes are long gone, right? Unfortunately, that assumption is why most people allow their heel pain to persist far longer than they should.

The truth is, heel pain after wearing any type of shoe without support under your arch could be your body’s response to a condition called Plantar Fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a long rubber-band like structure that connects from your heel out to your forefoot. When there is support under your arch from your shoes, that rubber-band is well supported and not kept fully stretched and tight. When we wear flat-bottomed shoes without supported arches, that poor band is stretched to its maximum every time you step down. After repeated abuse, the band starts to pull from your heel bone, causing inflammation and pain. Most people experience symptoms like pain upon first moving after sitting or waking up because the rubber-band was relaxed while you were inactive, then when you step down, BOOM- the band is over stretched again and pulls from the heel! This is a cycle that can persist and get worse over time.

There are many options for treating this condition and a podiatrist is the best person to help get you back on your feet, pain-free. Many conservative treatment options are available, and should be guided by your physician to ensure you are approaching this problem in the most effective way. Stretching exercises, icing, massage, proper shoegear, cortisone injections and physical therapy are some of the treatment strategies your physician may suggest. Ultimately, some patients who allow this condition to go untreated may end up requiring surgery to address this problem. I always recommend to my patients if they think there may be a problem with their foot, it is always prudent to seek help sooner than later.

Heel pain is a widespread problem that affects many summer-shoe-wearing patients, but there is no reason you must suffer the pain of those summer shoes all winter!

For more information on Plantar Fasciitis, click on our information page:

For information on other causes of Heel Pain, visit our interactive “Where Does it Hurt” page, and click on the area of your foot that hurts:

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