Patient Education

Heel Pain

Heel pain is most often caused by plantar fasciitis; a condition that is sometimes also called heel spur syndrome when a spur is present.

Heel pain may also be due to other causes, such as a stress fracture, tendonitis, arthritis, nerve irritation, or, rarely, a cyst. Because there are several potential causes, it is important to have heel pain properly diagnosed. A podiatric foot and ankle surgeon is best trained to distinguish between all the possibilities and determine the underlying source of your heel pain.

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the band of tissue (the plantar fascia) that extends from the heel to the toes. In this condition, the fascia first becomes irritated and then inflamed; resulting in heel pain. The symptoms of plantar fasciitis are:

  • Pain on the bottom of the heel
  • Pain that is usually worse in the morning or after resting for a period of time
  • Pain that increases over a period of months

People with plantar fasciitis often describe the pain as worse when they get up in the morning or after they've been sitting for long periods of time. After a few minutes of walking the pain decreases, because walking stretches the fascia. For some people the pain subsides but returns after spending long periods of time on their feet.

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

Faulty Foot Structure:  The most common cause of plantar fasciitis relates to the structure of the foot. For example, people who have problems with their arches, either overly flat feet or high-arched feet, are more prone to developing plantar fasciitis.

Lack of Support:  Wearing non-supportive footwear on hard, flat surfaces puts abnormal strain on the plantar fascia and can also lead to plantar fasciitis. This is particularly evident when a person's job requires long hours on their feet.

Weight: Increased weight gain can cause extra stress on the plantar fascia. The more weight you are putting on your feet combined with the hours spent on them will irritate the fascia more.

Conservative Treatment Options

Padding and Strapping: Placing accommodative pads in shoe softens the impact of walking and can alleviate some pain. Strapping (taping) helps support the foot and reduce the strain on the fascia.

Night Splints: Wearing a night splint allows you to maintain an extended stretch of the tissue while sleeping. This may help reduce the pain in the morning.

Orthotic devices: Custom orthotic devices that fit into your shoe help correct the underlying structural abnormalities that cause plantar fasciitis.

Shoe modifications: Wearing supportive shoes that have a good arch support and a slightly elevated heel reduces stress on the fascia.

Stretching Exercises: Stretching out the calf and foot muscles help ease the pain and cramping and will assist with recovery. Attached are a set of exercises designed specifically for Plantar Fasciitis relief.

Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, may help reduce pain and inflammation.

Injection Therapy: In some cases, corticosteroid injections are used to help reduce the inflammation and relieve pain.

Cam Walker Boot: An assistive walking boot, called a Cam Walker, may be used to keep your foot immobile for a few weeks to allow it to rest and heal properly.

Extra Tips

Avoid Going Barefoot!  When you walk without shoes, you put undue strain and stress on your plantar fascia

Limit Activities! Cut down on extended physical activities to give your heel a rest.

Ice! Putting and ice pack on your heel for 10 minutes several times a day helps reduce inflammation.

Click here to download stretching exercises for Plantar Fasciitis