Understanding Heel Pain

Massaging a painful foot

When you walk, run or jump your heels take much of the force from those impacts, so it’s no surprise heel pain is the most common complaint among folks who have foot pain, according to one study. The same study also found that six out of ten Americans who experience heel pain say they’ve had trouble with their daily activities.

Even when you are standing still, being on your feet for long hours can punish your heels and cause painful problems. Wear and tear on the natural cushioning in your body can lead to inflammation—with pain, stiffness and swelling.

Heel pain can hold you back at work or at play, and chronic heel pain can begin to change the way you walk and move while contributing to aches in pains in other areas—especially in joints like your knees or hips, or areas already under stress like your lower back.

Heel pain is common among athletes or runners, especially following an increase in workout intensity or frequency. Folks who are overweight are more likely to experience heel pain, and it’s also common during pregnancies.

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, but other conditions like Achilles tendinitis or bursitis could also be causing your pain. Injuries from stepping on something,or problems from a pinched nerve are also possible—as is a heel spur. Though, generally, heel spurs are not the cause of pain themselves.

Many of these sources of heel pain can be managed with conservative, at home treatments and by modifying your activity to give your body time to heal. Proper fitting and supportive footwear is also crucial to eliminating or preventing heel pain.