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heel pain

How to Heal Heel Pain

by Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTP1 Comment

Heel pain is a common complaint that can have several causes. This type of pain can affect your ability to stand and walk due to the pressure on the sore area. And at times, if your feet hurt you might feel like you hurt all over. Your normal activities can be greatly affected if you are unable to walk without pain.

Heel pain is generally caused by repetitive stress rather than a single traumatic injury. Here are a few possible causes of heel pain:

Plantar fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue on the bottom of your foot that helps support your arch. Plantar fasciitis is the result of this tissue being over stressed, which leads to pain where the fascia meets the heel bone. Plantar fasciitis is common in people who spend a lot of time on their feet, including athletes or those that stand all day at work. With this condition, pain is more prevalent on the bottom of the heel.

Achilles Tendinitis: Pain behind the heel is commonly associated with Achilles tendinitis, but this condition can also include pain both on the inside and outside portion of the heel. There may be swelling or tenderness in the back of the heel and along the Achilles tendon.

Heel Spur: A bone spur can form on the heel due to increased stress on the surrounding muscle tissues. A common site for bone spurs is where the plantar fascia connects to the heel bone, but bone spurs can also occur on the back of the heel. Bone spurs form gradually over time therefore they may be the result of long term condition. Poor fitting or worn out shoes can also lead to bone spurs.

Sever’s Disease: This is the most common cause of heel pain in children and adolescent athletes. It is common in athletes who compete barefoot such as those in gymnastics or karate. The condition is due to repetitive stress near the growth plate in the heel.

Ways to Decrease Heel Pain

  • Wear supportive shoes
    • You might need to buy new shoes if yours are stretched out
    • Try to avoid being barefoot
  • You might want a heel cushion to give a softer surface for the painful area
  • Use ice for pain relief
  • Take anti-inflammatory medications
  • Orthotic inserts for your shoes can help support the arch of your foot
  • Initially decrease the amount of time spent on your feet
  • Perform stretches

Stretches for Heel Pain

Seated Stretch: sit with one leg crossed over the knee, grab your heel with one hand, and use your other hand to gently pull up on the toes. You will feel a stretch in the arch of the foot. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. This can be performed throughout the day.

Standing Calf Stretch: place both hands on the wall, step back with one foot and keep your knee straight and heel on the ground. Lean forward onto your front foot until you feel a stretch in the calf.

Variation: Similar to above, but instead of keeping your back leg straight bend both legs. This stretch is felt lower in the calf along your Achilles tendon or in the back of the heel.

Massage: Use a tennis ball to roll along your arch for self-massage. You can perform sitting or standing and you control how much pressure you apply. To learn more about how tennis balls can be used to relieve pain, check out our “Massage Balls: The New Weapon Against Muscle Pain” blog.

Tip: use a frozen water bottle for both ice and massage to roll along the arch of your foot.

Balance Activities: Activities for balance help stabilize the ankle and foot to help decrease stress on certain joints and tissues. Examples include standing with feet close together with eyes open and eyes closed, standing in tandem with one foot in front of the other, and trying to balance on one foot.

It is important to note that physical therapy may be a good treatment option for your heel pain. To have your pain assessed, schedule a free assessment with one of our experts by clicking the button below.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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About the Author:
Tara Hackney, a physical therapist in Marion, IA, enjoys working with all patient types, especially gymnasts, cheerleaders, and dancers. She is the prominent blogger for Athletico's Gymnastic/Cheer Program. With an orthopedic specialization and training in dry needling and Graston technique, Tara hopes to answer your questions about injuries and injury prevention in an easy-to-understand manner. She hopes to ease fears surrounding pain and injuries, address concerns about recovery, and provide tips to prevent injury. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her dog, reading, and watching her nephews play sports.

1 Comment

  1. Sabrina Addams

    When I was out to lunch with my neighbor yesterday, she said that she has been experiencing some heel pain in her left foot. I am appreciative of your tips to use ice, anti-inflammatories, and supportive shoes for relief. I will call her and tell her these things and suggest she find a foot care procedure service in Sydney.

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