Heel pain. It’s an inevitable part of getting older or being physically active, right?
Wrong! Haven’t you learned anything from this blog? (Just teasing. A bit.)
Heel pain is a fairly common part of life for many of us, but it’s not normal. And in truth, there’s actually a lot of things you can do to minimize your risk of developing it.
If you occasionally struggle with heel pain yourself, try some of these strategies. You might be surprised at how much they can help.
Find the Right Shoes
And by the “right” shoes, we don’t mean the cutest, or trendiest, or the ones most likely to impress your friends!
(Not that they can’t be cute or trendy, of course. They absolutely can! They just have to, you know, fit your feet too.) A nice, comfortable walking shoe with a slightly elevated heel is going to work great for most situations.
Avoid super flat flats or flip flops, which don’t have much in the way of cushioned shock absorption or support for the arch. (Arch support is crucial, since an overstretched arch will pull on the plantar fascia where it attaches to the heel bone.)
Also, note that shoes do get worn out over time. Even if you take meticulous care of their outward appearance, the midsoles will be shot after a few hundred miles of wear—and with it any decent cushioning for the heel.
Wear Your Orthotics
Okay, not everybody needs orthotics. But if you do struggle with chronic heel pain, they can probably help you a lot. And if we have recommended or prescribed them, remember to actually wear them!
A quick breakdown here, for those who might not be aware:
Sometimes even a great shoe with good built-in cushioning and support isn’t quite good enough to prevent chronic heel pain. That’s because all feet are a little bit different—and unfortunately, yours might have some structural anomalies that make things harder on your heels.
But the right set of inserts can fix that. Key phrase there: the right set.
That doesn’t mean everyone with heel pain necessarily needs fully customized orthotics, but you also might not have the best luck pulling gel insoles off the pharmacy shelves at random, either.
When you come in for an assessment, we can help match you to the orthotics you need, so that they actually relieve your heel pain when you wear them.
Modify Your Activities
In your day-to-day life, you might be engaging in all kinds of activities that stress out your heels—at home, at work, at play.
No, we’re not saying quit your job or stop playing a sport you love if your heels hurt. All we’re saying is that you ask yourself, “Is there some way I can make this easier on myself without stopping me from doing what I love?”
- If you stand for long periods of time in a single place—say in front of a classroom, in the kitchen, etc.—put down a mat or rug.
- Take advantage of regular break times at work to sit and rest your feet. Also, wiggle your toes and stretch your feet throughout the day to keep the blood flowing.
- Remember to incorporate enough rest days into your training schedule if you play a high-impact sport or activity, like running or basketball. On those off days, cross-train in something that isn’t so hard on your feet, like swimming or cycling.
- If you’re a runner, try running on softer or flatter terrain.
Often if you’re smart about it, you can have your cake and eat it too—that is, you can continue to do what you love to do but in a way that significantly reduces the day-to-day stress on your feet.
Stretch Your Heels
Regularly stretching your feet and calves is a great way to reduce your risk of developing heel pain.
The calf muscles, Achilles tendons, and plantar fascia (the band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your feet) are all connected like a rope around a pulley, and tightness in one area can end up stressing the heels.
Stretching helps relieve some of this tension, and also helps build strength, range of motion, and flexibility in the tissues themselves. That makes them more able to absorb shocks and resist injury in the future.
Standing calf stretches, where you face a wall, keep your back leg straight with a foot flat on the ground, and step forward with your front leg (bending at the knee), are a great choice. You may also try:
- Grasping a towel with your toes and curling it toward you.
- Picking up marbles or a pencil with your toes and placing them in a cup.
- Grabbing your big toe with your hand, and pulling it gently but firmly up and toward yourself until you feel a good stretch in your arch.
- Rolling a tennis ball, water bottle, or other round object underneath your foot.
- Massaging your arch (or convincing someone else to do it for you).
We are happy to suggest other stretches and exercises that you can incorporate into your regular routine.
Keep a Healthy Body Weight
Now, we can’t see you as you’re reading this blog, so we don’t want to make any assumptions. Maybe you’re already in great shape!
However, about 1 in 3 North Carolinians are considered medically obese. If you happen to be one of them—be honest—that could be a major reason why your heels hurt so much and so often. It’s simple physics: the heavier you are, the more your feet are going to feel it.
This is, naturally, the most difficult “prevention” strategy for heel pain. But it’s also the one with the best upside, since heel relief is only one of the many benefits—more energy, lower risk of disease and systemic illnesses, and longer life expectancy chief among them.
If You Can’t Prevent, Treat!
So let’s say you do everything on this list, and guess what? You still wind up with heel pain. I guess there’s nothing left to do, right?
As we said, heel pain is not normal. If your prevention strategies aren’t working, visit the team at Carmel Foot Specialists.
We have a lot of effective treatment options to help you get better fast, including advanced and specialty technologies like laser therapy, acoustic wave therapy, and amniotic tissue injection therapy. These are designed not only to reduce pain quickly, but actually accelerate the natural healing process.
Beyond that, of course, we’ll do everything we can to soup up your prevention protocol so that you don’t have to come back and visit us again for your heel pain (even though we love seeing you!).
Schedule an appointment today so you can finally be rid of that heel pain, and go back to living your best life!
- Myers Park: (704) 334-8682
- South Charlotte: (704) 542-8253