If you've recently developed heel pain, you're probably wondering what's causing it—and what you can do about it. You're not alone; heel pain is one of the most frequent problems we treat at Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City in North Seattle. It's also one of the top reasons our active patients give for why they've stopped doing the things they love.
Fortunately, you don't have to let stubborn heel pain disrupt your lifestyle. Our expert podiatrist, Dr. Rion Berg, has 40 years of experience successfully helping patients of all ages resolve their heel pain using a holistic approach and a wide range of treatment options. Here's what you need to know.
Plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the connective tissue on the bottom of your foot, is one of the most common causes of heel pain. The tissue, called the plantar fascia, starts at your heel, travels across your arches, and inserts into the base of your toes. If you have pain in your feet when they first hit the floor in the morning, plantar fasciitis is a likely cause. This condition is also characterized by pain that decreases as the foot warms up, but returns after standing or sitting for long periods of time.
Why Does Your Heel Hurt?
Factors that increase your risk for developing plantar fasciitis include:
- Age, as this condition is most common in patients ages 40-60
- Activities, like running, that subject the feet to high levels of impact
- Poor foot mechanics, like flat feet and other factors that affect how weight is distributed
- Equinus, a condition that limits the upward bending motion of the ankle joint, often due to tightness of the Achilles tendon or calf muscles
- Excess weight and obesity, which puts extra stress on the plantar fascia, causing it to flatten painfully
- Unsupportive shoes that easily bend in half or twist when you try to wring them out
- Women are more at risk for this condition than men
At Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City, we'll work to help reduce your pain and inflammation; resolve calf tightness; address mechanical problems with over-the-counter inserts or custom orthotics; and teach you how to choose the right shoe for your feet. We can also refer you for physical therapy, if necessary.
Evaluating Your Condition
How do we know it's plantar fasciitis? We do a combination of the following to assess whether or not your heel pain is plantar fasciitis and to determine the source of the problem.
- Examining your feet - this will help us determine the source of your pain and the degree of your equinus or tight calf muscles.
- Watching you walk - observing you walk can tell us a lot about how your feet move. This includes if you overpronate, a common problem in the development of this condition.
- Performing a gait analysis - we perform a gait analysis using special instruments to see the pressure points when you're standing and when you walk.
- Checking your footwear - sometimes plantar fasciitis can be caused by poor footwear. We'll find out what you're currently wearing and whether or not you need to make a change.
- Asking about your level of activity - since athletes are at higher risk for this condition, we'll ask you about your sports participation, its duration, and frequency.
Heel Pain Treatments in North Seattle
Treatment for heel pain varies depending on the particular condition. Here are some of the most common treatment options we use to resolve painful heel problems:
Modalities to Reduce Pain and Inflammation in Plantar Fasciitis
The first thing our office will do when you come in with heel pain is tackle your pain and inflammation. We use a variety of modalities including:
Stretching to Relieve Tight Calf Muscles
Many patients with plantar fasciitis and heel pain also have tight calf muscles. Your calf muscle, Achilles tendon, and plantar fascia are all connected. When the calf muscle and Achilles are too tight you'll pull too much on the plantar fascia when you walk or run, causing microtears and inflammation (plantar fasciitis). To relieve the tightness stretching is imperative.
Learn how to relieve your tight calf muscles here.
Custom Orthotics for Heel Pain
Abnormal foot mechanics is one of the biggest reasons people develop plantar fasciitis and heel pain. The best way to balance and support a foot that has an arch that is too flat or too high is through custom orthotics. Now we also have custom 3D printed orthotics. Learn more here about how custom orthotics are made and the conditions they treat.
MLS Laser Therapy
We now offer advanced medicine to help reduce the pain and inflammation of plantar fasciitis. MLS laser therapy is a cold laser that helps to speed your recovery by stimulating the body's own healing process.
One of the most important things that you can do on your own to resolve your plantar fasciits is to purchase proper footwear. Sometimes a change in footwear is the only thing that needs to change in order to get rid of plantar fasciitis. To learn how to shop for shoes with plantar fasciitis, download my book, "How to Buy Shoes to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis."
Immobilization (use of a walking boot or similar)
Sometimes we need to completely prevent your feet from moving in order to put a stop to your inflammation. That's when we prescribe a walking boot.
One of the worst things you can do is go barefoot at home when you have plantar fasciitis. That's because every time you take a step your plantar fascia gets stretched and it gets re-injured. Instead, wear a supportive sandal made by Oofos or Vionic.
Referrals to Physical Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis
Some patients need additional help to reduce their inflammation and regain their strength. We refer to physical therapy for modalities like massage, additional stretching, and strength training.
If conservative treatments prove insufficient, we can also discuss a variety of surgical options.
Heel Pain Information for Runners and Hikers in Seattle
Because heel pain is common in runners, I wrote an eBook called "The Complete Guide to Stopping Heel Pain In Runners". It contains a whole host of information specific to runners.
Stopping Heel Pain in Hikers
If you're a hiker and prone to heel pain, you know how bad things can get when out on the trail. In addition to the remedies listed above, read the blog I wrote specifically for hikers on how to stop heel pain, called "The Definitive Guide for Stopping Heel Pain in Hikers".
And in addition, download my book, "How to Buy Hiking Boots to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis."
You'll also get great benefit from watching my video, "How to Stop Heel Pain in Hikers".
Heel Pain: Other Conditions
- Achilles tendonitis
- Achilles tendonosis
- Arch pain
- Haglund's deformity
- Heel spurs
- Insertional pain of the Achilles tendon
- Sever's disease
- Stress fractures
- Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction
- Sports injuries
- Tarsal coalition
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome