What is heel pain?
Heel pain is a common problem that affects the foot. It becomes gradually worse over time. Pain is more intense and more noticeable when pressure is placed against the heel.
The most common conditions that can cause heel pain are:
- Plantar fasciitis: This is the most common cause of bottom heel pain, which creates inflammation in the plantar fascia.
- Heel spur: This is growing of the bone at the base of the heel, which is often generated due to prolonged plantar fasciitis.
- Haglund’s deformity: A boney lump is created on the back of the heel, at the area of your Achilles tendon.
How are the symptoms of heel pain distinguished?
Heel pain can be different, depending on the cause:
- In plantar fasciitis, the pain is located below the heel and is usually worse during the first steps in the morning or after prolonged rest time.
- In heel spur, pain is located at the base of the heel bone and the boney abnormality is usually visible in radiographs.
- In Haglund’s deformity, pain is localized at the back of the heel, especially when the person is using shoes that put pressure to the point of the boney growth.
How is heel pain diagnosed?
Pain may be located below or behind the heel. The exact point of pain is important because it may be related to a different pathology or a more general problem.
When visiting your podiatrist, you need to indicate the exact point of pain, as well as when it started and if preceded by an event or injury. It is equally important to indicate if you have similar symptoms elsewhere.
Other important factors that help distinguish heel pain are:
- Medical history (e.g. diabetes, arthritis)
- Age and nature of the person’s profession
- Sports activities
- Shoe type
If your problem is advanced, your podiatrist may refer you to an orthopaedic for further diagnostic tests.
What can a podiatrist do for me?
A podiatrist will determine the nature of the problem by gathering information about your symptoms through questions and examination. He/she will also:
- Examine your gait cycle to assess how your foot moves through it.
- Examine your feet and look for signs of irritation, swelling, discoloration, muscle weakness and reduced range of movement.
- Check your footwear to determine whether it is appropriate and see if there are signs of excessive wear that might indicate problems in walking.
- Give you important information on how to select the correct shoes for your feet.
- Advise you on treatment and home exercises.
- Provide you orthotic insoles, if necessary.