Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Pain

Heel pain is, well, a real pain! A common foot complaint among athletes and non-athletes alike, heel pain may occur for a variety of reasons, including heel spurs. Suffering from heel pain? Check out possible causes and symptoms below to learn more about the source of your heel pain.

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Causes & Symptoms

The most common cause of heel pain is the plantar fascia. Plantar fascia — the band of connective tissue on the bottom of your foot that stretches from the heel to the ball of your foot — supports your foot’s arch. If this tissue becomes inflamed, you’ll generally feel the pain in your heel. Eventually, hook-shaped calcium deposits, also known as bone or heel spurs, may form on your heel bone and cause further pain.

Another common cause of heel pain is Achilles Tendinitis. This pain will be located to the back of your heel.

Click here to learn more about 
Achilles Tendinitis.

Your heel pain will likely be worse when your foot and calf muscles are tight, such as when you:

  1. First get out of bed in the morning.
  2. Stand after sitting at your desk or in your car for a long time.
  3. Exercise without warming up first.
  4. The shortened muscles pull on the heel spur and plantar fascia, causing immediate, sharp pain when you put pressure on your feet.

Walking Co. experts agree that your heel pain can become stressed by:

  • Poor arch support, usually caused by unsupportive shoes or walking barefoot.
  • Obesity or a sudden weight increase.
  • Sudden increase in physical activity, such as jogging more.
  • Short-term, unusual physical activity, such as weekend warrior home improvement projects.
  • Weak foot and ankle muscles.
  • Tight calf muscles.
  • Arthritis.
Your heel pain will likely be worse when your foot and calf muscles
are tight, such as when you:
  • First get out of bed in the morning.
  • Stand after sitting at your desk or in your car for a long time.
  • Exercise without warming up first.

Think Your Heel Pain May Be Serious? Take the self-assessment quiz below:

Self-Assessment Quiz 1

Do I feel heel pain...

  1. With the first few steps I take after getting out of bed in the morning?
  2. When I resume activity after sitting for a long period of time?
  3. After standing or walking for a long period of time?
  4. At the very beginning of an exercise session?

Self-Assessment Quiz 2

Where is your pain located?

  • The back of your heel?
  • The bottom of your heel?

If it is the back of your heel, check out information on Achilles tendonitis.
If it is on the bottom of your heel, continue reading this blog post.

Heel spurs can only be seen on an X-ray, so consult with your foot and ankle specialist for a definitive diagnosis. A foot and ankle specialist (podiatrist) can diagnose plantar fasciitis. The specialist will test for pain by putting direct pressure on the center of the bottom of your heel and along the plantar fascia. If you have had the condition for a long time, side to side squeezing of the heel may be painful.

Are There Any Serious Concerns With Heel Pain?

If left untreated, your heel pain will likely grow worse over time. It can even become disabling, preventing you from enjoying your normal activities. For instance, if your job requires you to stand up for long periods of time, your persistent heel pain should remind you to seek treatment as soon as possible to put you on the road to recovery.

Treatment and Prevention

Your heel pain won’t go away on its own. In fact, it may get worse over time if left untreated. You have many options for treating and even preventing heel pain caused by heel spurs or an inflamed plantar fascia.

Start your pain treatment and prevention with these conservative methods:

  1. Rest your feet as much as possible for a few days.
  2. Try to refrain from activities, like running and prolonged standing or walking, that tend to aggravate your pain.
  3. Ice your heels to reduce inflammation and pain.
  4. Give your feet extra support with supportive shoes, with a stable arch support and wide shock absorbing heel base. 
  5. Use over-the-counter orthotics or arch supports that help relieve pressure on your plantar fascia and heel.
  6. Stretch your calf muscles to reduce the muscle tightness that inflames your plantar fascia.
  7. Wear night splints. Night splints provide a consistent, automatic stretching of the plantar fascia over the course of the night. Using a splint can make those first steps in the morning much less painful.

If you're still feeling pain, try this next level of treatment and prevention:

  1. Order custom orthotics through your podiatrist. These rigid shoe inserts realign your foot and provide stable arch support to relieve inflammation and pain.
  2. Ask your podiatrist about steroid injections that can temporarily relieve your inflammation and pain.
  3. Stretch the muscles that help support your arch and plantar fascia.

Although less than 10 percent of heel spur sufferers require the last level of treatment—surgery—ask your podiatrist about this option if none of these at-home treatments have worked for you.

Remember – comfortable, supportive shoes can reduce heel pain – and help you leave heel spurs to the cowboys!

    This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your health care provider on all matters relating to this or any other condition that may affect your health.