Heel Pain (Plantar Fasciitis)

Heel Pain

Heel pain can be a debilitating and disruptive problem that interferes with your ability to walk comfortably and do the things you love. While there are many potential causes of heel pain including fat pad atrophy and tarsal tunnel syndrome, the most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. Scroll down to the end of the page for a quick summary of the other causes.

Think you may have heel spurs? The term heel spur is often used interchangeably with plantar fasciitis by other practitioners, though this is not technically correct. A spur is a bony protrusion (growth) from the bone itself. If you’ve had a heel spur identified through medical imaging and suspect this may be the cause of your pain, please let your Podiatrist know at your appointment.

What is plantar fasciitis heel pain?

On both feet, you have a tissue called the plantar fascia that starts at the bottom of your heels, and fans out across your arch to connect to the toes. This fascia helps maintain the shape of your arch and the bones, joints and muscles that comprise it. Any time you take a step, the fascia is placed under some tension, but this is usually a healthy amount that it is designed to handle. When this tissue gets damaged, often from higher than normal loads, your heel pain starts. This is called plantar fasciitis.

Why have I developed plantar fasciitis?

The damage to your plantar fascia will have occurred either from direct trauma to the heel bone, like jumping down from a height, or from increasing the load on the fascia. This may occur through:

  • Suddenly increasing your physical activity duration or intensity
  • Changes in your lower limb movement and function (biomechanics)
  • Being more vulnerable due to your foot posture, e.g. flat feet
  • Wearing unsupportive footwear
  • Increased body weight, as well as increased training weights at the gym

What does plantar fasciitis feel like?

A telltale sign of plantar fasciitis is heel pain when you get out of bed first thing in the morning, and when you stand up after resting. This pain is often severe, but can be mild, depending on the extent of the damage. The pain tends to ease as you continue to walk, and for many settles within the first ten minutes, if not the first ten steps. As the injury worsens, you’ll feel more pain more often, until it persists throughout the whole day. Swelling may also be experienced.

If plantar fasciitis is left untreated, it may progress to a partial tear of the fascia, or even a full rupture.

Can you fix it?

We help hundreds of patients every year with their plantar fasciitis heel pain. More than just relieving the pain and helping the fascia to heal, we address all the contributing factors, from foot function to footwear, to reduce the likelihood of the pain coming back in the future. We ensure that you are equipped with the tools and knowledge to help you make the best decisions to look after your feet, long after your treatment with us.

If it’s not plantar fasciitis, it could be…

  • Fat pad atrophy describes the thinning or breakdown of the fatty pads at the bottom of your feet. As these pads work to help us absorb shock from walking, force from heavy loads, and protect our bones and joints, their damage can result in pain at the heels.
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome describes the compression of a nerve that passes down the leg and across the inside of the ankle, below that bony bump (malleolus), and down beneath the arch. It gets its name because the compression occurs in a tunnel between the tarsal bones. This entrapment can produce a variety of symptoms across the foot, one of which can be heel pain.
Ready to help your heel pain?

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