Heel Pain & Treatments That Work

Heel pain is an all-too-common condition – and unfortunately, way too many people continue enduring that pain day after day without finding the treatment they need.

There are two important facts to understand about heel pain:

  • If you have had chronic heel pain which is recurrent, odds are low it will go away on its own anytime soon.
  • Most cases can be effectively treated conservatively. It’s simply a matter of addressing the underlying cause(s) of the problem!

What Causes Heel Pain?

The “heel pain” one person experiences can be different from that of another. That’s because there are multiple conditions that can cause such symptoms and underlying reasons why those conditions exist!

Some of the more common conditions that can cause heel pain include:

  • Plantar Fasciitis – Among the most common heel pain conditions, in which the tough band of tissue that runs beneath the foot becomes strained, injured, and/or inflamed. If heel pain hits hard in the morning or when sitting for a while then standing, it might be this
  • Achilles Tendinitis – Inflammation of the Achilles tendon that connects the back of the heel bone to the calf muscle. This sports injury often happens because of overuse.
  • Stress Fracture – Another overuse injury in which the surface of a bone develops hairline cracks on the surface. Further stress can deepen the cracks and further weaken the bone.
  • Bursitis – An inflammation of the small sacs of fluid that provide cushioning between bones and tendons near the heel.  

Each of the above causes of heel pain concerns a different section of the heel area. On top of that, simply knowing the condition responsible for the pain isn’t enough. We also must determine the factors that are contributing to that condition if we are to recommend the ideal course of treatment.

A few potential reasons that conditions can develop include:

  • Abnormalities in foot structure that force weight to center in certain areas of the foot
  • Wearing unsupportive or inappropriate footwear that also improperly distributes your weight
  • Strain and overuse during sports, workouts, or other activities
  • Spending long periods of time having to stand or be on your feet, especially on hard surfaces

Determining the best way to treat your heel pain means putting all these pieces together.

What Types of Heel Pain Treatment Options Are Available?

A heel pain treatment plan can consist of simple, time-tested methods or new technologies. It can even contain a mix, depending on the circumstances.

While we will go over a number of different forms of treatment, it’s important to once again note that this isn’t a menu to just pick and choose as pleased. We must conduct a full evaluation and review your individual needs before making recommendations of the treatments that are most likely to have an effect.

  • Pressure, Rest, ice, and elevation. You might recognize these methods from the “PRICE” protocol for treating a sports injury, and it remains good advice in certain situations. Sometimes, the best treatment for an aching heel is giving the body opportunity to recover on its own.
  • Changes in footwear. If your shoes are not providing the type of support you need, a change to more accommodating footwear can make a huge difference. This may mean reducing the height of your heels, or switching to athletic shoes that are designed for better controlling the mechanics of your feet and ankles.
  • Custom orthotics. There are times when a change in footwear may not provide enough cushioning and support for a patient. Custom orthotics are inserts that can be prescribed exactly as a patient needs for their foot structure, providing much more direct and personalized support and relief. We will elaborate on this treatment option further
  • Physical therapy. These can come in the form of exercises and stretches that can strengthen certain tissues or condition muscles to exert less stress on strained areas.
  • MLS laser therapy. When some conditions include injuries to soft tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and muscles, MLS laser therapy can be an effective means of accelerating the body’s natural healing and pain relief capabilities. Laser therapy sessions would be conducted over a scheduled series, and the results of the treatment tend to stack over time, providing greater and greater effects.
  • Changes in environment. When possible, a change in the world you have to stand in can also provide some support. If you spend all day on the job standing in one place, for example, we may suggest taking a few minutes each hour to move, or placing a cushioned anti-fatigue mat beneath your feet for some stress relief. Of course, this may heavily depend on the demands and policies of your job.

Custom Orthotics is a Common treatment option for heel pain and one that works long term.

This is not to say that custom orthotics are a “cure-all” for every case of heel pain out there. As with many other forms of heel pain treatment, custom orthotics are only effective in certain situations. But when those situations are properly addressed, patients are often astounded by the long-term relief they receive.

When May Custom Orthotics Be Needed?

The primary function of custom orthotics is to address structural problems in the foot that may be leading to heel pain and other symptoms.

While some cases of heel pain are due solely to overuse or trauma, many have structural abnormalities in the foot as at least a partial cause. In other words, something is “off” about the structure of the foot that is leading to stress or strain in a certain area, which in turn results in heel pain as a symptom.

Think of your foot a bit like a table. When made perfectly to spec, you have a stable piece that properly distributes weight placed upon it. Should part of the structure be off, however (like, say, one of the legs is just a bit too short), the piece can become unstable, and certain parts may be forced to bear more of any weight placed upon it than the original design called for.

Structural abnormalities in the feet, such as flat feet or high arches, can cause weight to become improperly distributed across the feet as we stand and move. Stress builds up against parts of the feet that are not conditioned to endure it well, and strain can result.

Additionally, these structure variations can cause us to subconsciously adjust our gait (i.e. the way we walk) to improve our stability. Since everything is connected when we move, such adjustments can not only contribute to heel pain, but pain farther up the body as well – in the legs, knees, hips, or lower back. 

If you have flat feet, high arches, or other structural abnormalities, they were likely inherited and run in your family. There is nothing you could have done to prevent them, and there is little short of surgical correction to get rid of them.

But custom orthotics can still help you find relief from the discomfort such conditions may be causing.

How Custom Orthotics Work

Custom orthotics address heel pain and other issues caused by abnormalities in foot structure and gait. They do so by providing exact amounts of cushioning and support to match the needs of your feet. They act to redistribute your bodyweight so that a pressure distribution is achieved,

Each set of custom orthotic inserts is prescribed to the needs of one pair of feet, and one pair alone. We take a  comprehensive biomechanical assessment and gait analysis  Once that is evaluated a plaster mold of the feet is taken in sub talar joint neutral. Once completed  then a prescription accompanies the cast to our lab of choice. Custom orthotics are  designed around each patient’s specific foot shape and needs. Both the types of materials used and how much , are carefully chosen, often down to the millimeter.  Once the orthotics arrive from the lab to the clinic a fitting is done in the shoe of your choice. Although orthotics are made to be interchangeable from shoe to shoe they are fitted for the shoe that is worn most. 

By adjusting for abnormalities in foot structure and gait, custom orthotics can properly redistribute weight across the feet and shift excess pressure away from the vulnerable areas that were under strain. Conditions such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis not only have a better opportunity to heal but are much less likely to develop again in the future.

Custom Orthotics Are a Long-Term Solution

Custom orthotics often require a “break-in” period before their full results are felt, and we may need to make some minor adjustments to them as we see how your feet respond to them with some use. But for those who can benefit from custom orthotics, wearing them can make all the difference!

This difference can become all the more apparent if a patient stops wearing their orthotics. A custom orthotic can correct a structural abnormality but  they are unfortunately not going to provide a permanent correction, either.  They only work when you wear them.

We have had a fair number of patients return to us with heel pain symptoms again long after their initial treatment, and one of the first questions we ask is, “Did you stop wearing your orthotics?” The answer is almost always yes.

And when the answer isn’t yes, chances are likely that their current pair of custom orthotics have worn out to the point of no longer being effective. 

Regular refurbishment and replacement of custom orthotics will help you yield the best results from them. The good news is that many insurance plans allow for a new pair of orthotics each year. We suggest a new pair of orthotics at least every two years.  Your feet change and require a new cast.

Find the Heel Pain Relief You Need

Custom orthotics are just one potential treatment for heel pain. There are other potential routes to relieve we may consider in addition to or instead of orthotics, including stretching, lifestyle changes, and even advanced laser therapy, among others. 

In every case, we will never make recommendations for heel pain treatment until we’ve had the chance to fully examine your condition and learn all we can about how your symptoms are affecting your life. We want to make sure we get the best course of treatment right for you the first time, whenever possible.

Custom Orthotics May Be the Solution You Have Been Searching for!

If you find that foot pain is keeping you from doing the things you love,  custom orthotics are one of the many treatments we offer at Keswick Active  Health Group to help support your feet. For a comprehensive evaluation and a discussion of treatment options, please contact us online or give us a call today at 905-989-0003. Or visit our office  in Keswick, Ontario.