If heel pain is an unwelcome guest in your daily life, you are far from alone. Millions of people experience heel pain, and we certainly wish more people would come see us to find the relief they deserve!
The first step toward treating heel pain of any sort is figuring out why that discomfort is happening in the first place. There is unfortunately no one treatment that will eliminate every case of heel pain out there. Many different conditions can lead to heel pain, and those conditions can have different contributing factors as well.
So when you ask, “Why do my heels hurt?”, there might be more potential answers than you expect. But finding that answer and using it to provide you a treatment plan that best suits your needs is what we do.
What Causes Heel Pain?
When many people mention “heel pain,” it can refer to discomfort anywhere within the heel area. There are many soft tissues and bones that could potentially be involved, ranging from the Achilles tendon to the plantar fascia and even the heel bone (calcaneus) itself.
In many cases, something has become injured or strained. While this may potentially happen from sudden trauma, more cases of persistent heel pain tend to arise from overuse or a history of repetitive impacts against the area. In other words, something is being forced to endure more force than it can handle over time, and without enough opportunity to rest and recover.
A few of the more common heel pain conditions we see include:
- Plantar fasciitis. This is a strain of the plantar fascia, a thick tissue that runs along the underside of the foot from the heel bone to the toes. When it becomes overstressed, microtears can develop in the band, often leading to pain in the bottom of the heel as soon as someone gets out of bed or starts moving again after a long period of inactivity.
- Achilles tendinitis. This is strain and irritation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Pain from this condition tends to be felt in the back of the heel, or just above it.
- Stress fractures. These are hairline cracks that can occur along the surface of a bone because of too much repetitive stress and too little rest. Distance runners tend to be at a higher risk of this condition.
There are many poor potential conditions that can be responsible for heel pain, from bursitis to peripheral neuropathy.
Even when we can properly diagnose the condition, however, it does not always provide us the entire story. We also need to know the underlying causes of the condition to best address your heel pain as a whole.