You normally don’t notice the strain your feet are in unless they cry out for help! This is seen especially with the heels, when the heels pain and threaten to disrupt your daily routine. This can be a problem, especially for busy individuals. But there are simple ways to treat heel pain and get you back on your feet in no time.
What is heel pain? An inside look
Heel pain can happen to anybody, and it occurs more commonly than you think. At least one in ten people experience heel pain at least once in our lives. But it is more common among middle-aged people and those who exercise a lot or who are quite active every day. In most cases, heel pain can be attributed to a damaged plantar fascia, the tough band of tissue that goes from the heel bone to the mid-section of the foot. A strained plantar fascia can become weakened and loose, or even inflamed. Soon, the heel of the foot hurts every time you stand or walk.
Recognizing heel pain: Don’t ignore the early signs
Our busy lifestyles make us walk or even run from one place to another all day. This leaves your heels open to pain and inflammation. If you ignore early niggling pains, your heels could suffer long-term damage that is difficult to cure. It might require expensive and prolonged medical intervention or therapy. But you can nip the problem in the bud before it escalates and disrupts your life. The first step is knowing the warning signs:
Heel pain with plantar fasciitis normally occurs in an erratic manner, in the heel or just behind it. You may not feel continuous pain, but rather short bursts of it. It can even be triggered by certain movements, such as taking the stairs or putting your body weight on your toes. You will feel it first thing in the morning when you wake up and put your feet on the floor. It normally occurs after exercise, long periods of inactivity, etc.
- Uneven Walking
Heel pain often does not occur in both heels at once, but it comes and goes in one heel at a time. You might find yourself altering your walk to get around the pain, but you might shift your weight to the other areas of the foot in an uneven manner. Changing your natural walk can put additional burden on your legs and back, as well as other parts of the body.
- Tired Feet
You might confuse your tired feet with heel pain, but if your feet are tired and sore often, it could be indicative of excess strain. This can cause heel pain over a course of time. Be alert for the first signs of stiffness in your feet even after resting them.
Consider these measures to deal with painful heels:
Taking Steps to Treat and Prevent Heel Pain:
Most types of heel pain are not permanent conditions and can be reversed quite easily. It does not go away overnight and there are no quick cures. But some simple recovery techniques can help you walk, run and skip like you used to.
- Rest Up
Healing always begins with rest. Most problems go away if the painful body part is well rested. Limit the time you spend on your feet, and if your painful heels are a result of exertion, stay away from strenuous exercise and running for a while. Put your feet up every day and do nothing – watch your favourite TV shows, read a book, chat with friends, and apply an ice pack to ease the pain.
- Stretch it Out
Even a simple task like standing for long periods in the train or bus can give your legs a good workout. Be sure to stretch your feet and legs every morning before you start your day. Do stretches to work your calves and feet to improve flexibility and speed up recovery time. Also look at our Foot Gymnastics feature for nine steps to stretch out and restore foot flexibility.
Heel pain develops over a period of time and makes itself felt in a short blast! So it is wise to be prepared for future pains thus:
- Stay Supported
Choose footwear that offers adequate arch support. This prevents strain on the heels and cushions the feet while the footwear absorbs shock on impact. Avoid buying shoes with zero arch support, and change your footwear every few months. Look up more advice on choosing the right shoes for foot support, and our feature on how incorrect shoes can lead to heel pain.
- Try Insoles for Extra Support
Your feet need additional support even at rest. Invest in gel insoles to keep your feet comfortably supported as you get on through the day. Active people can look for stronger and longer lasting support. If the heel pain has intensified, it is best to consult an orthotic specialist.
- Light on your Feet
Your feet carry you several kilometres in the course of a lifetime. For every mile you walk, your arches bear between 2,00,000 and 3,00,000 lbs of stress. You can reduce the heel pain by limiting this pressure. Also, maintaining a healthy weight helps you stay active and your feet in good shape. Also try a healthy, balanced diet to lose weight.
- Smart Sport
The pressure our bodies exert on the feet rises exponentially when we run – it is multiplied by up to seven times! If you are a runner, choose running shoes that cushion the feet adequately. It is better to talk to an expert about the right kind of shoes before you start training. You can even add insoles to your shoes for added foot support. A good idea is to avoid hard concrete surfaces, and choosing to run on indoor floors or grass.
Curbing your Heel Pain
Heel pain can certainly be a nuisance, but there is no reason that it can take over your life. A few lifestyle adjustments can help most people recover fully without resorting to medical treatment. But ignoring it makes it worse – be sure to speak to your doctor if the pain becomes intense or forces you to change the pace of your life. Taking care of your feet today will ensure that they will remain healthy for years to come.