There are two different categories of heel pain. The first is caused by over-use repetitive stress which refers to a soreness resulting from too much impact on a specific area of the foot. This condition, often referred to as “heel pain syndrome,” can be caused by shoes with heels that are too low, a thinned out fat pad in the heel area, or from a sudden increase in activity. Plantar fasciitis, a very common diagnosis of heel pain, is usually caused from a biomechancial problem, such as over-pronation (flat feet). The plantar fascia is a broad band of fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom surface of the foot, from the heel through the midfoot and into the forefoot. Over-pronation can cause the plantar fascia to be excessively stretched and inflamed, resulting in pain in the heel and arch areas of the foot. Often the pain will be most intense first thing in the morning or after a prolonged period of rest. The pain will gradually subside as the day progresses.
There are a few quick and easy stretches you can do at home to help prevent and treat heel pain.
Stair Case Stretch: Stand on a step with your feet together. The toes and balls of your feet should be on the step but your heels should overhang the step. Be sure you are supporting yourself with one hand on a railing or wall. Slowly lift up and down on your toes ten times. Repeat three sets of ten lifts. This exercise helps to strengthen your feet and heels, preventing and healing Plantar Fasciitis.
The Wall Stretch: Stand facing a wall with both feet together. Place your hands at shoulder height and width on the wall in front of you. Take a step forward with your right foot so that it is now only a few inches from the wall. Shift your weight onto your right leg and bend at the knee. Keeping both heels on the ground, lean your upper body slowly toward the wall until you feel a good stretch happening along the calf muscles of your left leg. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Return to your original position with both feet together. Repeat the stretch, this time putting your left leg forward. Do this exercise three times on each foot.
Toe To Wall Stretch: To begin this stretch, the heel should be on the ground and the toes on the wall. Place the opposite foot behind you. Keep the legs straight and move the entire body forward. Do not move your upper body forward and stick your backside out. You should feel a very strong stretch in the back of the calf and some stretch in the arch. To increase the stretch, move your heel closer to the wall and increase the angle of your foot. To decrease the stretch, move your heel back and lower your toes. Hold for 60 seconds and repeat 3 times.
To properly treat heel pain, you must absorb shock, provide cushioning and elevate the heel to transfer pressure. This can be accomplished with a heel cup, visco heel cradle, or an orthotic designed with materials that will absorb shock and shear forces. When the condition is pronation related (usually plantar fasciitis), an orthotic with medial posting and good arch support will control the pronation and prevent the inflammation of the plantar fascia. Footwear selection is also an important criteria when treating heel pain. Shoes with a firm heel counter, good arch support, and appropriate heel height are the ideal choice.
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