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4 Common Causes of Heel Pain

Pain in your heel isn’t unusual. If you’ve bruised your heel before or spent too long on your feet, you know how uncomfortable that feels and you’re probably familiar with that ache. Because foot pain is so common, you may not think you need medical care. In fact, patients with heel pain often wait for weeks or months before seeking proper care. 

At Svetlana Malinsky, DPM PC, Dr. Malinsky and her staff don’t want you to feel discomfort and pain unnecessarily. The following four causes of heel pain are quite common, and if you recognize the descriptions, we encourage you to schedule an appointment for an exam.

1. Plantar fasciitis

By far the most common cause of heel pain, plantar fasciitis is most noticeable early in the morning. If you find yourself wincing with those first few steps due to pain in your heel, you may have plantar fasciitis.

Your plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs from the base of your toes to the heel of your foot. It helps your foot flex and bend, and it serves as a shock absorber with each step you take. 

When you have plantar fasciitis, you develop micro-tears along your plantar fascia. Your body tries to heal the tears, resulting in inflammation, which causes pain. There are lots of things that raise your risk of plantar fasciitis, including: 

There are treatments for plantar fasciitis, so if you notice that your heel hurts in the morning, or after you’ve been sitting for a time, schedule an appointment with Dr. Malinsky. Certain exercises and stretches can help, and braces, shoe inserts, and other interventions are available. 

2. Bone spur

A bone spur on your heel is sometimes called a heel spur. Heel spurs develop slowly, over the course of months or even years. Calcium deposits build up on the bottom of the bone of your heel. 

Heel spurs are often the result of strain on your foot and can even be caused by plantar fasciitis. The risk factors for plantar fasciitis and heel spurs are similar. Playing sports that require a lot of running and jumping, standing for many hours every day, wearing improperly fitted or worn-out shoes, and carrying extra weight can cause heel spurs.

You may not realize that you have heel spurs, as they don’t always cause symptoms. However, they can cause intermittent pain particularly when your walk or run, and sometimes the spur can injure the surrounding soft tissue and cause inflammation, which results in pain.

Conservative and surgical treatments are available for heel spurs. Surgery is a last resort but can bring relief if nothing else has worked. 

3. Fracture

Another common cause of heel pain is a stress fracture, which is a tiny crack in the bone of your heel. Stress fractures are typically repetitive use injuries. Runners, people who play sports that involve a great deal of jumping, and people who have jobs that require a lot of walking are at a greater risk of developing stress fractures.

As with many foot injuries and problems, the pain of a stress fracture is likely to become worse with time. You may feel tenderness on your heel or notice some swelling. It probably feels better when you rest. If the pain is severe or persists even when resting, you may have a medical emergency and should seek immediate care. 

Treatment options include a walking boot, a brace, or the use of crutches to help you reduce the load on your foot as it heals. Rest, ice, and a slow return to activity are also recommended.

4. Achilles tendonitis

As with all of the other possible causes of heel pain in this post, Achilles tendonitis is usually an overuse injury. Your Achilles tendon becomes inflamed due to tiny tears or strain. Because your Achilles tendon connects to your heel bone, it can cause pain there, rather than higher up on your ankle. 

Getting treatment for Achilles tendonitis is important. You want to prevent an Achilles tendon rupture, which requires surgery and can take months to properly heal. 

If you have persistent pain in your heel, schedule an appointment with Dr. Malinsky. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner you can ease your symptoms!

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