Heel pain occurs at two sites; The back of the heel, and at the sole of the foot.
Like most injuries, heel pain can have many causes, most of which are caused by day-to-day activities. Some of these activities include:
- Poorly fitted shoes
- Tight calf muscles
- Shoes that are hard at the heel counter (that wrap around the back of the heel of the foot)
- Standing on your feet for long periods of time,
- Overuse activities such as long-distance sporting activities (marathons, gardening or any activity for which your body is not fully acclimatised for)
- Some arthritic conditions such as psoriatic arthritis.
However, if left untreated for a long period of time, heel pain at the back of the heel can lead to:
- An inflamed bursa (which is a small sac of fluid at the back of the heel that can become bigger or smaller depending on the rubbing forced by the shoes)
- Bumps at the back of the heel (also known as pump bumps or winter heel syndrome) which are bony enlargements at the back of the heel bone itself close to where the tendon Achilles attaches
- Large spurs forming at the site which can be painful and can cause increased rubbing of the skin that is trapped between the shoe and bone spur.
What are the symptoms of heel bursitis?
The symptoms of heel bursitis include pain at the back of the heel. Generally, your feet will feel sore with each step you take. Standing and walking can irritate your foot by adding pressure from the heel of the shoe.
How is heel pain diagnosed?
Heel pain is diagnosed by physical examination by your local podiatrist, sometimes with the use of x-ray, ultrasound and MRI imaging.
What is abnormal stress?
Abnormal stress can apply to any part of the body if the physical demands on that body part are greater than the body’s ability to cope with this. This is made worse by standing, walking and running for long periods of time when your feet aren’t used to such high demand. The most common abnormal stress to the foot is associated with abnormal pronation where the foot rolls in at about the ankle and causes the arch height of the foot to decrease. The foot in this situation is more mobile (loose) which therefore causes more strain to the muscles, ligaments and tendons that must work harder to maintain stability.
How do you get rid of heel spurs without surgery?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to be rid of the spur without surgery, but much can be done to make the foot more comfortable. This can include the simple use of a heel raise to limit the strain at the back of the heel at the tendon achilles, which presses against a different part of the heel to help bring about some relief. Sometimes injections of corticosteroid and shockwave therapy will help to limit the inflammation. Orthotic therapy sometimes is necessary to shift the weight bearing away from the painful site.
Is walking good for heel spurs?
If walking increases the pain of the spur it is not good to continue walking. Should the pain increase limping will occur and cause strain and injury elsewhere.
Are heel spurs permanent?
The pain of the heel spur is rarely permanent, although the bone spur itself usually remains unless the patient has surgery to remove it.
We understand that heel pain can cause you a great deal of distress especially because your foot often does not look like it is injured. Our podiatrists are trained to diagnose this condition and to implement a regime of care to help you recover from your heel pain and to get you back on your feet.