This might not seem obvious when you first think about it, but take our word here: when it comes to heel pain, a lot of different things can go wrong.
In fact, most of the time when somebody visits our office with this aggravating symptom, there are actually multiple underlying issues that need to be addressed. Heel pain doesn’t have one simple, single cause, and quite often there are a lot of little things in the background that all add up to one big pile of misery.
But don’t let that discourage you! Even if you’ve been suffering for a long time—and just straight up have no idea how to get better—there’s still plenty of hope that you can get rid of it without surgery.
In order to do that, though, you need to identify any especially likely contributing causes and take the appropriate countermeasures.
Let’s look at some of the most frequent contributing problems (and solutions) together, shall we?
Problem 1: Your Shoes Don’t Cut It
It does seem strange that, with all the latest biomechanics research and manufacturing processes available to us today, people still have so much trouble finding a comfortable pair of shoes!
Unfortunately, far too many people are out there every day in footwear that doesn’t properly support their arches or cushion their heels. When you further consider that, unlike our ancient predecessors, contemporary humans spend pretty much 100% of their day walking on super hard, super flat surfaces, it’s maybe not so surprising that even modern shoes can fail us if they aren’t carefully selected.
A few simple guidelines:
- Always test the shoe fit before purchasing. It should be comfortable right away. Don’t rely on a “breaking in” period to save your feet.
- Good cushioning, arch support, and a slightly elevated heel are ideal for most everyday shoes. Avoid high heels, ballet flats, flip flops, and other unsupportive options.
- Shop for shoes later in the day. Your feet will probably be a little swollen, and you want to make sure your shoes still fit if they are.
- Shoes should always be activity-appropriate. Don’t try to play basketball in loafers!
- Replace shoes once they are worn down.
Problem 2: You Work on Your Feet All Day
People with active jobs represent a huge percentage of the local workforce here in Charlotte, including those in advanced manufacturing, health care, service industry, and much more. Unfortunately, standing all day can definitely lead to some wear and tear on your heels.
Quitting or changing jobs obviously isn’t a realistic solution for most people, but that shouldn’t stop you from considering some options you might have to modify your circumstances, including:
- Placing a stool and/or anti-fatigue mat at your workstation
- Getting better shoes (see problem 1 …)
- Taking full advantage of your break times
- Taking time to stretch regularly throughout the day
Problem 3: You Play on Your Feet All Day
While we heartily encourage all our patients to cultivate active hobbies, those who enjoy a lot of high-impact activities may unfortunately develop heel pain as a side effect. Runners, hikers, recreational athletes, and even “power shoppers” can be affected.
We don’t want you stop exercising! However, you might need to consider making some modifications to your routine.
- Again, make sure your shoes are appropriate for your activity or sport of choice. (Notice a theme here?)
- Build enough rest days into your schedule. Your heels need time to recover and repair themselves after the strain of a workout.
- Avoid jumping into new activities, sports, or workouts without building up to it first. Your body needs time to adjust. Start new activities at a slower pace, increasing intensity (whether that’s measured in distance, speed, or weight) by no more than 10% per week.
- Try to remain active throughout the week and throughout the year. “Weekend warriors” are especially prone to injury.
Cross train in different types of exercises. If your preferred sport puts a lot of strain on your feet (such as running), it’s especially important to also spend some of your exercise days working on low-impact activities such as lifting weights, swimming, or riding a bicycle.
Problem 4: You Are Overweight.
This one is pretty straightforward. The heavier you are, the more weight you put on your heels every step you take, and every second you stand. In fact, each step may be equivalent to 2-3 times (or more) your body weight worth of impact force, so even losing 10-15 pounds can make a huge difference in the right circumstances.
Also straightforward: try to get yourself back down to a comfortable, healthy weight for your height and body type.
Just remember what we said in the last section—don’t try to do too much, too soon. It’s far better for you (and your feet) to pace yourself, develop healthy habits, and lose the weight slowly and sustainably than try to shed pounds in a hurry. That could lead to injury (and a greater risk of regaining the weight.)
Problem 5: Your Foot Structure or Gait Mechanics Are Working Against You
Here’s an especially frustrating issue.
The thing is, not every set of feet is equally good at distributing weight and pressure evenly. You may have been born with a foot shape that just isn’t as good as it could be at keeping the weight away from your heels, and that could lead to a greater incidence of pain. Inefficient gait mechanics (such as overpronation) and acquired deformities (such as flat feet) can do the same.
If the structural or biomechanical imbalance is severe enough, simply wearing better shoes might not get you all the way there. More likely you will need a set of orthotics from our office.
Problem 6: None of Your Solutions Worked for Me!
While many cases of heel pain can be resolved at home using the “troubleshooting guide” we’ve prepared for you above, many do not.
If your attempts at home care haven’t provided the relief you deserve—or not for long, anyway—then it’s time to let a professional take a closer look.
In addition to helping you pin down the causes of your heel pain even more accurately, we can also provide many advanced (and non-surgical!) treatment options such as laser therapy, acoustic wave therapy, and AmnioFix injections.
We are very experienced at this sort of thing, and we’re confident we can help you greatly reduce (or even outright eliminate!) even the most stubborn and severe heel pain. Contact us online to have a member of our staff reach out to you, or call your preferred office directly to schedule:
- Myers Park: (704) 334-8682
- South Charlotte: (704) 542-8253