Every mile you walk places 60 tons of stress on each foot. It may seem like a lot, but your feet can handle it. Too much stress, though, can lead to a damaged, painful heel, the most common problem affecting the foot and ankle.
If you continue activity despite a sore heel, you only aggravate the pain, and you could develop any of a number of chronic conditions with additional symptoms.
At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, our team of board-certified foot and ankle specialists treat all manner of foot and ankle conditions, including heel pain. To prevent worsening of your problem, we want you to learn about four conditions related to heel pain and their symptoms.
Though it’s certainly possible to sustain an acute injury to your heel, most heel pain stems from repetitive stress injuries or structural issues affecting the bones and soft tissues, such as:
Plantar fasciitis is by far the most common cause of heel pain. The fascia is a wide, thick ligament that runs along the sole of the foot and connects the heel to the toes.
When it’s stretched too far from repetitive stress, the fibers become inflamed, causing a sharp, stabbing pain in your heel.
Active adults aged 40-70 are at the highest risk of developing the condition, especially if they’re long-distance runners or have jobs that keep them on their feet for long periods. Pregnant women, too, are at risk, as the additional weight stresses the ligament.
Rest, icing, braces, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs are the first steps for managing the condition. If they don’t help, we can inject a corticosteroid directly into the damaged ligament, and/or a physical therapist can help strengthen your lower leg muscles and stabilize your walk.
Achilles tendinitis is also a repetitive stress injury, most often seen in runners who’ve suddenly upped the intensity of their workouts, or in weekend warriors. The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel bone, and you use it when you walk, run, jump, or push up on your toes.
When overstretched, the tendon develops multiple microscopic tears, thickening, weakening, and becoming painful at the back of the heel where the tendon connects to the bone. You may also experience limited range of motion as you flex your foot.
Treatments are much the same as those for plantar fasciitis.
Bursitis is an inflammatory condition of the bursa, a fluid-filled sac at the back of the heel that cushions the bone, ligaments, and muscles. The inflammation can occur from repeatedly landing hard on your heels or from excessive pressure from ill-fitting footwear.
The pain presents either deep inside the heel or at its back, and sometimes, the Achilles tendon may swell. The pain usually gets worse as the day goes on.
Treatments are essentially the same as for both plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis.
Spurs are calcium deposits that form a bony protrusion on the underside of the calcaneus (heel bone) as a result of muscle and ligament strains, plantar fascia stretching, and repeated tearing of the heel bone membrane.
It often forms concurrently with plantar fasciitis. You may feel a sharp, knife-like pain when standing up in the morning, and a dull ache in the heel throughout the day. You may also experience inflammation and swelling at the front of the heel.
Again, treatments are similar to other heel pain conditions.
If you’re experiencing any form of heel pain, especially if you’re a runner or are on your feet all day, it’s time to come into Chicagoland Foot and Ankle for an evaluation. To learn more, or to schedule, give us a call or book online today. We have locations in the Mount Greenwood and Portage Park areas of Chicago, as well as Orland Park and New Lenox, Illinois.