Managing Heel Pain – A Few Simple Tips

Heel pain is one of the most common presentations our Podiatrists see at Prahran Foot Clinic and can have various causes. Here we’ve outlined a few of those causes and a few simple things you can do at home to help.

Most cases of heel pain that we see is caused by a condition known as plantar fasciitis (sometimes referred to as plantar fasciopathy or plantar fasciosis as well as ‘heel spurs’ or ‘policeman’s heel’. This occurs when the fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot (called fascia) becomes inflamed or irritated, sometimes it may also have small tears in it. Other causes of heel pain can include achilles tendinopathy, tibialis posterior tendinopathy, Sever’s disease (in children) or nerve entrapments to name just a few.

Whilst it is recommended that you be assessed by a Podiatrist or your GP there are a few things you can do at home to help improve your symptoms.

  1. Rest and Ice: Give your heel some time to rest and avoid activities that exacerbate the pain such as running or playing sport. Applying ice to the affected heel for about 15-20 minutes at a time every few hours can help reduce inflammation and pain. We suggest putting a bottle of water into the freezer and then rolling in under the arch of your foot and heel, this can be done whilst wearing a thin sock so that your skin isn’t in direct contact with the frozen water bottle.
  2. Stretching and Strengthening: Gentle stretching of the calf muscles and the plantar fascia can help relieve tension and reduce pain. Strengthening exercises for the foot and ankle muscles might also be beneficial and may be given to you by your Podiatrist.
  3. Supportive Footwear: Wear shoes with proper arch support, a firm, supportive outsole and cushioning innersole with good shock absorption. An ideal shoe would be a running shoe or hiking boots. Avoid wearing high heels and shoes with inadequate support, as they can contribute to heel pain. Thongs (aka flip-flops or ‘jandals’ to our Kiwi friends) should also be avoided.
  4. Orthotic Inserts: Over-the-counter insoles purchased from the pharmacy or a shoe shop may help to minimise any arch collapse and provide support to an overworked plantar fascia. Depending on the cause of your heel pain your Podiatrist may recommend a different type of foot orthotic which will be custom made.
  5. Anti-Inflammatory Medications: If your heel pain has only come on recently then non-prescription anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Nurofen or Advil) can help manage pain and reduce inflammation. However, consult with your doctor or pharmacist before using any medication as, although available without prescription, not everyone can take them.
  6. Night Splints: Wearing a night splint can help in cases where the muscles and tendons in the arch of the foot and achilles are too tight. These work to keep the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon gently stretched overnight and often help with the discomfort experienced first thing in the morning. These can be purchased online, at some pharmacies or through us here at Prahran Foot Clinic.
  7. Elevation: Elevating your foot whenever possible can help to reduce swelling if present.
  8. Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy body weight will reduce the amount of stress on your feet, which might in turn can help to resolve conditions such as plantar fasciitis and prevent it from recurring.
  9. Avoid Barefoot Walking: Walking barefoot or with unsupportive shoes such as slippers or thongs can worsen heel pain, so wear supportive shoes, even whilst at home.
  10. Taping or Strapping: Some people find relief from using athletic tape or special straps to support the arch and reduce tension on the plantar fascia.

To arrange a time to see one of our Podiatrists simply book an appointment online or call the clinic on (03) 9529 6608.

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