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Foot Health Blog

Find expert articles from physical therapists and podiatrists to help understand, diagnose, and treat different foot health issues such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, flat feet, and more.
A person putting a heel spur insert into their shoe
HeelHeel Spur Inserts—What Is Right for You?A heel spur is a bony spur caused by the accumulation of calcium deposits on the heel bone. Heel spurs occur because of repeated trauma and damage to the foot muscles and ligaments. The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) estimates that at least 1 in 10 people has a heel spur. Of this number, 1 in 20 suffer pain. If you have a symptomatic heel spur, then you should be aware of conservative treatment methods that can minimize your pain and control any other symptoms you have. To learn more about these conservation methods, take a look at our post on how to massage heel spurs. Using Inserts as a Treatment Option for Heel Spurs Heel spurs can be a painful and uncomfortable condition to manage. While rest, ice, compression, NSAIDs, steroid shots, and stretching exercises all help with its symptoms, heel inserts for bone spurs have been shown to be an effective treatment option for those suffering from the condition. Research suggests that heel inserts redistribute pressure on the foot, cushion the heel, and improve shock absorption during walking or running. This reduces the discomfort caused by heel spurs and can significantly improve the quality of life of anyone with heel spurs. Using heel inserts as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan for heel spurs can promote healing and fast-track pain relief. Though non-invasive and cost-effective, it should be noted that heel inserts for bone spurs may not be a complete cure for the condition. If you are considering heel inserts as a treatment option for your heel spurs, you should speak with your healthcare provider. They can provide you with guidance on the best type of insert for your specific needs and help develop a comprehensive treatment plan to manage your symptoms. How to Choose the Right Inserts for Heel Spurs Heel inserts can be an effective treatment option for heel spurs. However, selecting the right insert is crucial in ensuring that you get the best results. While the wrong type of insert can worsen your symptoms and increase your discomfort, choosing the right insert for your condition can help you manage your symptoms effectively and improve your quality of life. The most expensive inserts are not always the best choice for your condition. When searching for heel inserts for bone spurs or the best insoles for bone spurs, keep these features in mind: Design The best inserts for heel spurs come with deep heel cups and cushioning to provide additional stability to the foot. The design also increases shock absorption when walking. Material Different materials, such as foam, gel, and EVA insoles, can be used in making heel inserts. Each material has its advantages, but these three materials generally provide the best support, cushioning, shock absorption, and pressure relief. » Struggling to choose between memory foam and ge insoles? Learn about the differences here Insole Placement Depending on the shoes you plan to wear the insert with, decide whether you need a full-length or a 3/4-length insole. Full-length insoles fit directly into the shoe and may require you to remove the pre-existing insole. In contrast, a 3/4-length insole can be placed on top of the existing insole. Durability Inserts do not cure heel spurs but can help manage the symptoms. Choose inserts that are durable and will last for a long time. Custom-Fitted Orthotics Custom-fitted orthotics designed and recommended by a podiatrist can provide the best results. A podiatrist with years of experience can tailor the insert to your specific needs and ensure that it fits properly. Personalized Relief for Heel Spurs with Upstep Upstep Heel Pain Custom Orthotics is the answer to your heel spur woes. Our custom insoles will give your feet the extra cushioning and support they need to stop hurting. Upstep Heel Pain Custom Orthotics has the following features: Custom design and fitExtra cushion and supportFSA and HSA eligible180-day money-back guarantee The Relationship Between Heel Spurs and Plantar Fasciitis When comparing heel spurs vs plantar fasciitis, it is essential to note that both conditions are related but distinct. While heel spurs refer to a bony deposit at the bottom of the heel along the course of the plantar fascia, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia itself. Because they often coexist and share similar risk factors, symptoms, and causes, these conditions can be confusing and hard to distinguish. Common risk factors for both include tight calf muscles, obesity, ill-fitting shoes, foot arch type, abnormal gait patterns, and repetitive stress on the heel. Symptoms such as pain, redness, swelling, and tenderness can also be shared. However, there are still clear differences between the two. For instance, plantar fasciitis tends to cause stabbing heel pain, while heel spurs cause pain in the heel bone. It's also worth noting that plantar fasciitis is more likely to cause heel spurs than the other way around. Also, when it comes to treating plantar fasciitis and heel spurs, both conditions benefit from orthotic insoles. The best insoles for bone spurs may come with deep heel cups and cushioning to provide additional stability to the foot, which can help manage the discomfort caused by both conditions. In the case of plantar fasciitis, inserts that provide arch support help reduce strain on the plantar fascia. NOTE: it's important to consult with a podiatrist to determine the best type of insert for your specific condition. » Check out the best insoles for treating plantar-fasciitis-related calf pain Are Orthotic Inserts Necessary for Heel Spurs? Many people with heel spurs do not experience any pain, and for them, orthotic inserts may not be necessary. However, for those who do experience pain, orthotic inserts can be crucial. If left untreated, heel spurs can limit physical activity since weight-bearing can worsen the condition. Furthermore, repetitive stress from activities like walking, running, or jumping on hard surfaces can contribute to the development of heel spurs. At Upstep, we offer a range of high-quality orthotic inserts designed specifically for managing heel spurs and related conditions.
A person massaging their heel to relieve pain
HeelMassages for Heel Spurs: Helpful Tips and TechniquesA heel spur is a bony growth caused by calcium deposits on the heel bone. Typically, heel spurs are asymptomatic, meaning they do not cause any symptoms. They can, however, lead to significant heel pain, which is intermittent and stabbing. The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) affirms that 1 in 10 people has a heel spur, but only 1 in 20 individuals present with pain. In addition to pain, heel spurs can cause redness, swelling, tenderness, and inflammation at the heel. While there is no known cause, several risk factors predispose you to heel spurs. Some of these causes of heel pain are tight calf muscles, obesity, improper shoes, and an abnormal gait pattern. Additionally, prolonged repetitive activities, high-impact activities (like running), and sudden changes in physical activity levels can cause heel spurs. Benefits of Massaging Heel Spurs While massage cannot cure heel spurs, it is beneficial in managing the symptoms of these growths. Massage relieves pain as it kneads away and soothes any tense muscles, ligaments, and surrounding tendons. It also reduces inflammation and improves blood flow to the area, which promotes healing. It should be noted, however, that the benefits of massaging heel spurs are temporary, with surgery being the only permanent solution. Massage helps to decrease pain and inflammation, which are only the symptoms and not the spur itself. Massage Techniques for Treating Heel Spurs Several massage techniques can be used to treat heel spurs. Each method requires a different position and has varying degrees of complexity. They can be classified into three broad categories: Self-massageMassage by othersMassage with equipment 1. Self-Massage The first and most common technique is a simple self-massage. It involves massaging your foot with your hands while in a seated position. To perform this massage, Start at the base of the heel, where the plantar fascia connects to the heel bone.Gently applying pressure, knead the tension out of ligaments and muscles using a circular motion as you go.Then apply moderate to hard pressure on the plantar fascia running downwards from the ball of the foot.Continue for several minutes and repeat the process until every part of the heel has been covered. 2. Massage by Others For each of the massage techniques below, you need someone to help you. This can be anyone you’re comfortable with or a trained professional like a physiotherapist. The advantage of getting a partner to work with you is that you can focus on relaxing your body while the person is busy with the massage. They can also work through the more painful areas you may have avoided. The techniques include: Stroking Massage While lying down, your partner should cup your heels in their hand. Then, they need to apply gentle pressure while stroking the top and sides of your feet with their fingers. The top strokes aim to relieve any kind of tension in the muscles and ligaments of the foot. Deep Petrissage For this technique, your partner uses the heel of their hands instead of the fingers to apply sustained pressure. They should apply this pressure steadily while moving from the ball of the foot to the heel. Wringing Massage Much like wringing a wet cloth, with a wringing massage, your partner holds your whole foot. Then, with hands facing opposite directions, they need to apply gentle pressure with each hand and twist their hands. Your partner should work from the ball of your foot to the instep and foot arch. 3. Massage With Equipment These massages require implements like a tennis or golf ball, a foot massager, and in some cases, a water bottle. Using a Golf Ball To massage your feet with a golf ball or tennis ball: Sit in a chair with your feet facing forward.Place the heel of your foot over the golf or tennis ball.Roll your foot over the ball, beginning with the ball of the foot, moving to the sole. Apply as much pressure as you can. Repeat for a few minutes for each session. Using a Foot Massager In some instances, you can use a machine to massage the foot directly. To use foot massagers, Start slowly, placing both feet on the massager, so your feet get accustomed to it.Gradually increase the intensity of the vibrations while staying within a comfortable range.Use it for up to ten minutes at a time before stopping. What Is the Fastest Way to Heal a Heel Spur? While massage is effective for managing the symptoms caused by heel spurs, there are other ways to treat them. NSAIDs, ice, rest, splints, stretches for heel pain, orthotics, and local corticosteroid injections are all effective in bringing quick relief. The fastest way to heal a heel spur is to combine methods. » Interested in other natural treatments? Discover the best heel spurs home remedies
Person massaging their foot using both thumbs
HeelWhat Is Acupressure and How Can It Relieve Heel Pain?Heel pain is one of the most common pains that most people generally experience. You can get heel pain from wearing uncomfortable shoes, and you can get heel pain after running. Many practices and techniques are used to manage this pain, one of them being acupressure. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for years. While much of the western world continues to reject its practices, many are embracing its practices for pain management. Acupressure is one TCM practice that is gaining acceptance in the community because of its effectiveness in relieving pain symptoms. Acupressure is a TCM practice that delivers sustained pressure to specific pressure points around the body to achieve pain relief. Although the evidence for its effectiveness may be low, acupressure seems effective in treating pain at the back of the heel. In this post, we will further discuss which pressure points are located in the heel and what you need can do to relieve the pain when your heels hurt. Which Pressure Points Are Located in the Heel? There are up to fifteen pressure points in the heel, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. These pressure points have a far-reaching effect that surpasses the feet to influence the whole body. By applying pressure to these areas, you can facilitate the flow of energy (qi) between the points and the organs they represent in the body. Once there is a restoration of harmony in the body meridians, pain relief also occurs. The fifteen pressure points include the Tai Chong (LV 3), Yong Quan (KD 1), Da Dun (LV 1), Tai Bai, Tai Xi, Shen Mai, Qiu Xu, Kun Lun, and Xing Jian. Others are the Li Nei Ting, Xia Li, Zu Lin Qi, Gao Ya Xue Dian, Di Er Li Dui, and Di San Li Dui. It is important to note that stimulating a pressure point on the heel does not mean you are treating the heel pain, but relieving it. Due to how body meridians work, many pressure points have links to organs located elsewhere in the body. Hence, if acupressure is to be used to address heel pain, you must be able to identify the specific pressure points in the feet which solve heel pain. Heel pain exercises also offer great pain relief techniques. How Can Acupressure Relieve Heel Pain? In TCM, heel pain is a result of Liver and Kidney yin deficiency. Consequently, if the desire is to relieve heel pain, you must start by addressing the pressure points associated with the two organs. There are at least three pressure points that can be used to treat heel pain. They are Tai Xi, Kun Lun, and Yong Quan. When you apply pressure to any of these points, you'll experience pain relief. Several attempts to explain how these pressure points have led to differing opinions. Some think that the pressure causes the stimulation of larger nerve fibers and effectively blocks the perception of pain. Others assert that the pressure causes relaxation and the release of endorphins, which modify the pain perception. Lastly, the pressure may influence the autonomic nervous system and affect the heart, digestion, and breathing. One thing that seems sure, regardless of how you think it happens, is that acupressure points do relieve heel pain. Additionally to the aforementioned, you can also make use of insoles for heel pain. How to Use Acupressure to Relieve Heel Pain There are at least three approaches to acupressure when the goal is pain relief. You can use either the massage technique, calf stretching exercise, or custom orthotics. Massage You can either use a manual massage or massage machine to deliver acupressure to relieve your heel pain. You may perform the massage on your own, or you may need a reflexologist/physiotherapist/someone skilled in acupressure to help you. To perform the massage: Extend the toes and sole while applying pressure massage to all three acupressure points. You can use your thumb to apply the pressure. You can also use the cover of a pen to apply the pressure.Continue for 2-3 minutes.Relax and repeat. To learn more about the other techniques that you can use, take a look at our post on How to Relieve Plantar Fasciitis Using Points. Calf stretching Calf stretching is a very useful heel pain exercise, to perform it: Stand shoulder-width apart. You can place your hands on the wall at chest level if you need support.Place one foot slightly ahead, ensuring the other remains straightened. Keep both feet flat on the ground. Lean forward on the straightened leg for 20-30 seconds. This move stretches the calf muscles on that leg.Stop and repeat on the other leg. Alternate between both legs up to 5 times each. » Still not convinced? Check out our extensive guide on pressure points for plantar fasciitis Use of Custom Orthotics While heel massage and calf stretches can take care of the pain symptom, a custom orthotic that’ll deliver acupressure targets the root cause of the condition. Research evidence suggests that only a custom orthotic with fascia bar technology can effectively relieve heel pain. Beyond making the feet more comfortable, the fascia bar technology lifts the heel while applying sustained pressure to the targeted points. Thus, it addresses the immediate pain symptoms while dealing with the long-term root cause.
A before and after image of a man with heel spur pain
HeelHeel Spurs: An Overview of Symptoms, Causes, and TreatmentsA heel spur is a bony protrusion on the heel, which is usually felt in the middle of the underside of the heel. It is a common condition and is often the cause of heel pain, as the spur eventually leads to inflammation and pain as the tissue becomes aggravated. While heel spurs aren’t usually dangerous, in some cases they can limit your physical and daily activities, and therefore, require treatment. Causes of Heel Spurs Internal Causes Possible internal causes of heel spurs include: Repetitive stress: Continuous stress on the heel causes calcium deposition. Over time, the calcium deposits become bony spurs or osteophytes and compress the soft tissue of the foot whenever there is pressure on the heel.Weight: Obesity increases the chances of developing heel spurs.Gender: Females are more likely to develop heel spurs than males. External Causes Heel spurs may also be externally induced. Hard surfaces: Walking, running, and jumping on hard surfaces can strain the foot muscles and ligaments leading to heel spur formation.Poorly fitting shoes: When shoes don’t provide proper support, they can cause heel spurs.Standing on your feet: Especially for long periods at a time. Gait abnormalities: This includes increased heel strikes when running or walking.Plantar fasciitis: There is some connection between heel spurs and plantar fasciitis, especially when the latter is left untreated or improperly managed. The injury to the plantar fascia easily becomes a site for calcium deposition and consequently, heel spur growth. Symptoms of a Heel Spur The symptoms associated with heel spurs include: Sharp, stabbing sensations in the heel, usually in the morning when standing upA constant, dull ache in the heel hat persists over the course of the dayPain in the central heel when touched or weight is placed on the footInflammation and swelling of the heelA sensation of heat around the footPoint tenderness at the bottom of the heel How to Treat a Heel Spur Non-Surgical Treatment There is a host of conservative treatments for heel spurs, including: Ice: Applying ice to the heel can relieve inflammationOrthotics: They cushion the heel and reduce the shock applied to the foot while running or walking. This reduces inflammation, and consequently, pain.Anti-inflammatory medication: This can provide you with immediate pain relief, so you can complete daily tasks as normal. These medications, however, are associated with side effects such as stomach ulcers and kidney issues.Stretching: The muscles and structures of the calf muscle complex may provide you with relief from pain and inflammation by reducing the strain placed on the soft tissue around the spur itself. Stretching the muscles of the foot may also help. Corticosteroid injections: These are administered by medical professionals and provide symptom relief for about 3 to 6 months. One cannot get multiple steroid injections as it increases the likelihood of complications such as a tendon rupture. They also aren't a cure for this condition. » Want to treat your heel spurs at home? Discover the best home remedies for heel spurs Surgical Treatment Should the spur protrude to the extent that the soft tissue is inflamed, and other pain remedies have failed to reduce your symptoms, surgical interventions might be considered. During this procedure, the spur is removed, but the recovery process may be quite extensive. At least 3 weeks are spent on crutches after the surgery, and it may take further time to be fully symptom-free. » Does chiropractic therapy help with heel spur pain? Find out how a chiropractic adjustment works Can Heel Spurs Be Prevented? Heel spurs are oftentimes preventable. Treating the conditions that could potentially contribute to the development of heel spurs is paramount in preventing the growth of a heel spur. Preventative measures aiming to reduce the strain and stress applied to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones of the foot will help lower the risk of developing a heel spur. Using orthotics or specialized shoes is one prevention method, as it limits the shock placed through the heel. Vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium and vitamin D are essential for calcium absorption, and therefore, slow the development of heel spurs. These vitamins can be consumed in a healthy, balanced diet and usually do not require supplementation.  Should your symptoms or pain become debilitating and limits your mobility, seek advice from a medical professional regarding treatment options for your heel spurs.  » Think orthotics are the answer? Choose the right heel spur insert for you
Elderly woman in all pink sitting on couch and holding her heel
HeelBest Home Remedies for Heel SpursHeel spurs refer to bony protrusions that extend from the calcaneus bone, usually due to a calcium buildup as a response to repetitive stress and strain. The spur may protrude into the soft tissue surrounding the heel, leading to inflammation and pain. Symptoms of a heel spur include sharp stabbing pains in the morning, with duller aches later in the day. There can be point tenderness to the touch in the middle of the affected heel and a feeling of warmth around this area. What Causes Heel Spurs? Repeated micro-tearing of the membrane covering the calcaneus and aggravation of the area due to increased tension of the plantar fascia from plantar fasciitis, are further causes of heel spurs. Moreover, they can also occur due to the influence of systemic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Those with excessive heel strike in the gait cycle, and those regularly doing high-impact exercise, can develop this foot condition. A person's weight and sex can also contribute to a greater likelihood of a buildup of calcium deposits - with more women and overweight people suffering from heel spurs. Natural Treatments for Heel Spurs There are many natural remedies to help you manage your heel pain at home, without more extreme treatment methods like surgery. Although natural remedies won’t cure the bony spur, they do slow the growth of the spur and decrease the severity of pain.  To start, you can aim to relieve the pressure on the heel by taking a look at the shoes you wear regularly, and determining whether they are suitable for your condition. Shoes with hard soles may aggravate symptoms, especially during day-to-day activities. When it comes to shoes for exercise activities, look for shoes with a shock-absorbent sole to reduce some of the force during heel strike.  Custom-made orthotics and shoes may be a relatively inexpensive way to manage the heel pain associated with the continued pressure on the heel. Orthotics distribute weight evenly throughout the foot and thus take the strain off the structures in the heel. This will slow the development of a heel spur.  Massage Techniques for Heel Spurs Massage is a great way to treat symptoms associated with heel spurs. The areas to massage include the sole of the foot, areas around the heel, and the calf muscle. Massage promotes the lengthening of structures to reduce tension, as well as increasing circulation, which promotes healing. Massaging the underside of your foot with a massage ball can relieve tension in the plantar fascia that could be contributing to the development of a heel spur. A foam roller can also be used to massage and stretch the structures that may be contributing to your daily symptoms. Self-massage can be done in the comfort of your home. Starting at the heel, take your thumb and gently apply circular massaging strokes to the area. The amount of pressure you use should not cause any pain. You can apply circular strokes to the sole of the foot towards the toes, and thereafter, long strokes across the length of the foot. Exercises for Heel Spurs Exercise to strengthen and promote mobility in the joints of the ankle, knee, and hip will also aid you in relieving your symptoms. Below are some of the best exercises to do. Calf muscle stretch against a wall: This stretch can be done against the wall, which provides a stable base to stretch against. Stand upright and place your forefoot with the toes facing forward against the wall. Slowly bend the knee to feel the stretch in the calf muscle. Calf stretch using a towel: Start by sitting with your legs out in front of you. Put a towel around the forefoot of one of your feet, and pull your toes toward you, stretching the calf muscle. Hold for 15-20 seconds.Calf isometric exercises with a towel: Start in the same position as before, with the towel around your forefoot. Push your forefoot into the towel and apply equal resistance by pulling back with your arms. Hold for five seconds and repeat 10-15 times per leg. Toe exercises: Place the feet flat on the floor with the weight distributed evenly across the foot. Lift the toes of one foot off the ground and hold for 2-3 seconds, and repeat ten times. Lift the toes off the floor while fanning them out from one another. Hold and then repeat. Yoga: Yoga has been found to be very effective in reducing pain in the body, including the foot and heel. There are many ways to treat foot conditions, including heel spurs. These bony protrusions can easily and simply be treated at home with natural remedies, massage, and exercise. Keep in mind, however, that if your symptoms persist or worsen, you should receive professional medical advice from a healthcare professional.
A woman cupping and massaging her painful heel
HeelHeel Bursitis Home Treatment GuideSwelling and pain at the back of the heel may be a sign of heel bursitis. Whenever it occurs, it makes walking difficult and uncomfortable. The symptoms can make it uncomfortable or even difficult to walk. Heel bursitis is the inflammation of any of the two liquid-filled sacs located at the back of the heel. Most times, overuse or sudden excessive strain of the heel is the common cause of heel bursitis. This can happen when there is a sudden increase in the volume of physical activity without a proper warm-up. This for instance can happen in sports such as golf and athletics. Heel pain from golf is said to be one of the most common pains amongst golfers. If you play and are looking for orthotics for your shoes, check out Upstep's orthotics for golfers. Exercising with ill-fitting shoes or wearing high-heeled shoes can also cause heel bursitis. Risks of Not Treating Heel Bursitis Heel bursitis can be left untreated. However, it should not be left untreated. If left untreated, it can cause enlargement or thickening of the bursa, leading to chronic pain and inflammation. Also, heel bursitis can cause muscle atrophy because it makes walking difficult, restricting physical motion in the joints. How Long Heel Bursitis Takes to Heal The recovery time after heel bursitis depends on the severity of the inflammation, the speed of intervention, and the kind of intervention. Treatment for bursitis can take any of the following ways: Rest Since heel bursitis is largely due to overloading of the heel, getting off the heel and resting the foot should bring some relief.Icing Ice helps to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. To use ice, wrap the ice in a towel instead of applying it directly on the skin to prevent skin injury.Gentle exercises Heel pain exercises that stretch the Achilles tendon are reportedly beneficial for treating heel bursitis. Orthotics You can also use orthotics for heel pain. Orthotics will reduce the strain on the bursa by redistributing the pressure in the foot when walking and providing cushioning and shock absorption to the heel.Footwear Improper shoes will cause pain. Therefore, to treat heel bursitis, you must wear shoes that fit properly to prevent adding extra stress to the heel.Steroid injection If the pain is too severe, you can administer a corticosteroid injection to deal with pain.Surgery As a last resort, surgery can be an option when conservative treatment fails. The surgical approach could involve either fluid aspiration or bursectomy. With these treatments, you should see improvements in 2-8 weeks, depending on the severity of bursitis. If you want to remain active during this period, you can opt for low-impact activities like swimming. If the symptoms do not move after four weeks, it is time to visit your primary care physician, podiatrist, or orthopedist for expert advice. Best Stretches for Treating Heel Bursitis There are contrasting views on whether stretches can help treat heel bursitis. However, stretching helps heel bursitis. They can help relieve pain and reduce the impingement on the bursae. Different types of stretches can be performed for heel bursitis. We mention three below: Achilles Tendon Stretch A gradual stretch of the Achilles tendon can relieve the impingement on the bursae. To perform this stretch: Stand close to a wall with the affected foot in front of the otherLean forward towards the wall until you feel a stretch in the Achilles tendon. Ensure the knee remains extended.Maintain the stretch for at least 30 seconds. Repeat the set at least ten times, three times daily. Bilateral or Single Heel Drop This stretch helps stretch the calf muscles. To perform this stretch: Stand on the edge of an elevated platform, such as the last step on a stairway. The heels should not be supported so they can move freely up and down.Slowly rise onto your tiptoes and then lower the heel as far as possible.Repeat twenty times. Tiptoe Standing Perhaps the easiest of all the stretches is the tiptoe stand. To perform this exercise: Stand upright while keeping both legs straight.Rise onto your tiptoes with both feet.Slowly lean onto the affected leg, transferring weight onto the affected leg.Repeat the exercise at least fifteen times in one set. Can Walking Make Bursitis Worse? The bursa is found where the Achilles tendon connects to the heel bone. The more you walk, the more likely the bursae will become irritated and inflamed. Hence, walking is not recommended with heel bursitis as it can cause symptoms to flare up. Instead, you can rest your foot. For more information on the Achilles tendon, take a look at our post on the Best Exercises for Your Achilles Tendon.
Person holding their heel in pain
HeelHeel Pain When Stretching: Causes and TreatmentsFor the majority of cases of heel pain, stretching the calf muscle and muscles of the foot has been proven to relieve pain and tension in the area, thus reducing your overall experience of symptoms. The causes of heel pain are conditions such as plantar fasciitis, bone spurs, bursitis, and Achilles tendinitis. Determining why you have sore heels is paramount in managing your heel pain going forward.  Conservative management strategies like getting a heel massage is usually the first consideration when trying to manage this condition. When dealing with symptoms of pain around the area, stretching can be a great tool in managing various conditions around the body, alongside exercises for heel pain, and other conservative methods. Stretching the calf muscles and plantar muscles of the foot can contribute greatly to overall daily symptom reduction by lengthening the structures around the area of the heel. However, in some circumstances, you can cause your symptoms to get worse. Causes of Heel Pain When Stretching Stretching in moderate amounts and without the presence of excessive pain, is deemed beneficial to the body by many, and is used in various forms globally to achieve different outcomes. It is recommended to ensure that you are not over-stretching a muscle or muscle group in the body to achieve a certain result, without doing potential micro-tears to the muscle tissue. It will take time for you to lengthen a muscle group safely. If a muscle is stretched into a range where the muscle belly and muscle attachments are put under extreme load, you are at further risk for developing micro-tears and inflammation in the tendons. With daily stretching to the end of the range and highly tensioning the muscles repeatedly, the muscles don’t have adequate time to heal and recover from the previous stretching session. High levels of muscle damage are usually then observed in the muscle belly and inflammation in the tendons can arise, otherwise known as tendinitis.  Stretching in some conditions can cause the condition to flare up, usually as a result of over-stretching. Refrain from stretching the aggravated muscle group should this arise or if you suspect you've injured a muscle recently. For more information on these causes, take a look at our post on what causes pain at the back of the heel. Do’s and Don’ts When Stretching It is advised to never stretch into high levels of pain. Take your time to warm up the muscles you intend to stretch for approximately ten minutes before your stretching session. Try to avoid stretching cold muscles as this could lead you to be at increased risk of developing micro-tears, as well as potential muscle spasms from occurring. Muscle spasms occur as a result of the body trying to protect itself when adverse tension is placed on the muscle. Functional movements like gentle squats, heel raises, bridging exercises, and ankle pumps are great examples of warm-up exercises you can do.  Apply the stretch slowly to the muscle when stretching muscle groups in the body. Refrain from bouncing in an attempt to increase the stretch further as this could result in pain or injury. In exercises such as the standing heel stretch, breathe slowly as you stretch and avoid pain.  You can stretch the muscles on the underside of the foot by sitting with your foot crossed over your opposite knee in a sitting position. Apply a gentle stretch to the forefoot, pulling the toes back towards the knee. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat several times.  You can also make use of a step to stretch the calf muscles. Place the forefoot on the edge of a step and gently lower the heel downwards. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat several times on both legs. Treatments for Heel Pain From Stretching It is advised that if stretching is aggravating your symptoms of pain, halt stretching activities, and allow time for the structure to heal. At this stage, you can make use of ice to reduce inflammation in the affected structure. It is also advised to rest the affected structure from all general activities as much as possible if those activities are causing pain. Reducing exercise is further recommended so to let the inflammation subside. After a period of rest, low-intensity exercise can be done using the affected foot and slowly increase the intensity of exercise as you feel your heel can cope. If the exercise aggravates symptoms thereafter, taper your exercise back and continue with other conservative management strategies for heel pain. Take a look at our posts on What Is Acupressure and How Can It Relieve Heel Pain? and the Benefits of Yoga for Heel Pain. Another cost-effective way is to get custom-designed insoles for heel pain. The increased cushioning and shock absorption from the orthotics can protect the heel and tissue around it from aggravation during exercise. Massaging the affected area can also help relieve symptoms of heel pain. When to See a Doctor for Heel Pain It is advised that you seek the attention of a medical practitioner for the following reasons:  A loud snap or pop is heard while stretchingExcessive pain in the Achilles tendonYou have reduced ability to use a muscle or ankle/footBruising around the areaYou are unable to put weight on your footInability to walk for more than 3 daysExcessive swelling around the ankle or heel A medical practitioner will take your medical history, examine the affected area, and may send you for diagnostic radiography to further determine the cause of your pain. An MRI, CT scan, and X-ray can all be used to diagnose your condition further.
Young woman holding foot with shoe off on the street while wearing exercise gear
HeelMost Common Causes of Heel Pain After RunningHeel pain is a relatively common injury among athletes, especially runners. The pain often starts subliminally, which can progressively worsen if left unmanaged. Without treatment, heel pain can make walking difficult and make carrying out your regular activities of daily living difficult. Unfortunately, there is no blanket treatment for heel pain. Rather, your approach depends on the specific cause. In this guide, we’ll carefully consider what heel pain after running looks like, what causes it, and how to prevent it. Heel Pain After Running: What Is It? When heel pain occurs, expect to experience some tenderness or pain at the back of the heel, at the bottom of the heel, or within the heel bone. The location of the pain is important, as it can indicate the cause of the pain. Plantar fasciitis, for example, is the most common type of heel pain that occurs under the heel. The pain is characterized by mild pain when running or exercising, becoming more severe after exercise or when resting. In addition, the pain may occur intermittently or regularly and makes it difficult to lift your toes off the floor. Most Common Causes of Heel Pain After Running Any number of reasons could result in heel pain after running. The most common causes include: Plantar fasciitis: The plantar fascia is the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs in as much as 8% of runners due to repetitive stress, overuse, and a weakening of the collagen fibers surrounding the fascia. Pain due to plantar fasciitis has a gradual onset. However, there can be sudden onset of pain when there is microtrauma or tearing of the plantar fascia. Structural problems: Both high arches and fallen arches put a strain on the plantar fascia. As a result, you may experience pain after running if you suffer from either of these arch problems.Obesity: Obese individuals tend to place excess weight on their ankle joint and foot, causing pain in those regions. Other Conditions That Can Cause Heel Pain After Running The conditions listed above may be the most common causes of heel pain after running, however, they are not the only sources of pain. Many other conditions can cause heel pain, albeit less frequently. They include; Calcaneal apophysitis (Sever’s disease): Sever’s disease is a common cause of heel pain in active children who run and jump a lot. The increase in activity irritates the growth plate located at the back of the heel, which, in turn, causes heel pain.Achilles tendonitis: As the name implies, Achilles tendonitis is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, or the fibrous cord that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Tight calf muscles, obesity, and poor gait mechanics are the major causes. Apart from pain, you may also notice redness and swelling around the heel bone. Heel spurs: A heel spur is a bony outgrowth around the heel bone. They often go undetected at first, but continue to grow as more and more calcium deposits compound in the area. While it doesn’t directly cause pain, it causes inflammation of the surrounding tissues, leading to pain. The symptoms of heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are similar, so they are frequently misdiagnosed.Bursitis: This condition refers to the inflammation of the bursae, which are fluid-filled sacs found between muscles, tendons, and bones. Bursae are responsible for reducing friction and allowing smooth movement over bony surfaces. However, excessive movement and strain of the bursae lead to inflammation, which often causes sharp or shooting pain and swelling or redness. Arthritis: Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the ankle joint will lead to inflammation in and around the heel bone, causing pain.Nerve compression: Compression of the nerves in the foot can cause sharp, radiating pain at the heels and make the feet feel heavy to lift. Can You Prevent Heel Pain After Running? Heel pain after running is preventable using a combination of methods. Ensuring you run with proper footwear for your foot type and gait while avoiding hard surfaces is a good way to start. Analyzing your gait can help you understand exactly how you run, so you can make necessary adjustments to your technique. Beyond this, avoid sudden increases in your mileage, and aim to keep increases below 10% weekly. Strengthening exercises for heel pain and stretching your plantar fascia and Achilles tendon are also recommended. If, after all these, you still develop heel pain, you can easily manage it using conservative means. These include the use of ice, NSAIDs, massage, orthotic insoles, custom orthotics, and vitamins, Avoid running with heel pain as it can prolong the healing time. However, if the pain remains following weeks of conservative management, it is time to see a doctor. Your doctor will take a detailed history of your heel pain and examine your foot objectively. The doctor will then prescribe a suitable treatment approach. As a last resort, surgery may be necessary if the pain problem persists.
A person holding the back of their heel with a highlighted red area showing where pain is being felt
HeelPotential Causes and Diagnosis of Pain at the Back of the HeelHeel pain is a common cause of discomfort in many people. It’s a symptom with a diverse number of causes ranging from those that affect the heel bone directly to those that affect structures around it. One of the most commonly affected areas of the heel is the back. Heel pain can make it difficult to perform your activities of daily living. For treatment to be effective, a proper diagnosis is necessary. Where treatment is prompt, the pain can be limited and the condition controlled by non-surgical treatments. Otherwise, surgery may be necessary. Let’s consider in some more detail what pain in the back of the heel look like and its causes. Areas of Pain in Heel The area where pain occurs in the heel can indicate its case. Generally, there are three patterns to the presentation of pain in the heel: Behind the heelUnder the heelWithin the heel bone Symptoms of Heel Pain Alongside heel pain, you can expect the following symptoms: Skin discoloration (bruising or redness)Warmth around the tendonAchilles tendon tightnessAnkle joint stiffnessSwelling and tendernessPain on standing from a resting/sitting position Causes of Pain in the Heel As previously mentioned, heel pain can have several different causes, the most common of which are as follows: Achilles tendonitis This is the major cause of pain at the back of the heel. It occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed due to overuse and is more common in men and older people. Plantar fasciitis Plantar fasciitis causes pain at the bottom of the heel. It occurs when excessive loading of the feet damages the plantar fascia ligament, leading to inflammation and stiffness. It is most common in people that engage in high-impact activities like running. Heel bursitis This is an inflammation of the bursae between your heel bone and Achilles tendon, causing pain in the back of the heel bone. Stress fractures A sudden increase in intensity by athletes over a short period can lead to a stress fracture of the heel bone. Heel pad bruise This is caused by an acute traumatic injury to the back of the heel leading to sharp pain. It can be caused by excessive weight-bearing exercises and landing poorly after jumping from a high perch. Fat pad atrophy With aging, the fat pad in the heel of atrophies. Likewise, the thinning of the fat pad can occur with repeated trauma to the heel (for example, the heel of an obese person or marathon runner). The result is an aching pain in the bottom and back of the heel. Factors That Increase the Risk of Heel Pain Generally, the chance of developing heel pain increases with more pressure and loading on the feet. Thus, you’re more likely to develop heel pain if you: Are obesePerform high-impact activities like running or jumping oftenHave flat feet or high foot archesHave foot and ankle arthritisStand for long periods at a time on hard surfacesWear ill-fitting shoes without proper support or cushioningHave a history of injury around the heel How Can You Treat Heel Pain? Pain in the back of the heel is generally amenable to non-conservative treatment, such as the following methods: Rest Medication Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Ice Cold treatment can address pain and inflammation. Less activity Activity modification so that the foot bears less load can reduce strain. Corticosteroid injections Cortisone (steroid) injections can ease pain and swelling. Physical therapy This will incorporate exercises (mobilization, strengthening, stretching), massage, ultrasound, and several other physiotherapy techniques. Physiotherapy intervention aims to stretch the tendon, strengthen the foot muscles, and relieve pain. Alignment correction Taping and splinting can relieve pain and stretch the foot, respectively. Orthotic devices Orthotics are useful in relieving pain at the back of the heel bone. Compared to OTC inserts, custom orthotics are more useful in this regard. Upstep provides custom-made orthotics that support the ankle and relieve pain. Proper footwear Wearing appropriate shoes that are properly fitting, cushioned, and have heel lifts reduces stress on the Achilles tendon. Should You Call Your Doctor? It’s okay to first try some of the home remedies discussed above when you first notice heel pain. However, if pain persists after a few weeks of treatment, you must consult a doctor promptly. Your doctor will help you determine the location of the pain in your heel and identify the likeliest cause. Treatment is much easier once there is an accurate diagnosis. Otherwise, it can lead to untold complications.