The first part of the gait cycle, where your foot has its first contact with the ground, is called ‘heel strike’.
During walking and running your heels repeatedly hit, or strike, the ground with considerable force.
For correct function they need be able to absorb the impact and provide a firm support for the weight of the body through the gait cycle.
There are various types of heel pain.
Some of the most common are heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, heel bursitis and heel bumps (Haglund’s)
As heel pain is often associated with inflammation it means that the pain can worsen with rest.
This is why can can be at its most painful when we first get out of bed or when we have been sitting having a coffee and stand to walk.
“Pain is a warning – don’t ignore it!”
These can generate pain but they are the most commonly misdiagnosed form of heel pain.
You can have heel spurs with no pain and pain with no heel spurs.
Even when pain is caused by heel spurs the pain may not persist even though the spurs do.
If you do have heel spur pain it is usually felt on standing, particularly first thing in the morning when you first put your feet on the floor from bed.
It is not uncommon, though tends to occur more in the over forty age group.
There is nothing to be seen on the heel but a deep localised painful spot can be found in or around the middle of the heel pad.
It is often associated with a spur of bone sticking out of the heel bone (heel spur syndrome), however approximately ten per cent of the population have heel spurs without any pain.
A clear diagnosis requires imaging, usually either X-ray or ultra-sound.
Often similar in symptom to heel spurs, pain is usually experienced more to the inside of the heel around the insertion of a muscle called Anterior Tibialis towards the back of the inner arch.
This condition is often associated with over-pronation (rolling the foot inwards) during standing, walking and running.
Pain can also be due to inflexible calf muscles and repeat stress injury.
It can also be due poor footwear choices, old unsupportive shoes and injury, among other causes.
Diagnosis is often achieved with bio-mechanical assessment, with treatment through prescription of specialist custom insoles (orthotics) and the implementation of a rehabilitation and exercise programme.
Shockwave is also very effective treatment for plantar fasciitis.
A bursa is a fluid filled sack the body uses for cushioning or padding, often under tendons.
When a bursa experiences trauma of repeat stress it can swell, leading to bursitis.
Pain can be felt at the back of the heel during ankle movement and there might be a swelling either side of the Achilles tendon.
Pain may also be felt deep inside the heel when it makes contact with the ground and can feel like a deep bruise.
Treatments can include rest, stretching exercises and orthotics.
These bumps are also known as Haglund’s Deformity.
This is recognised as a firm bump or enlargement of the bone on the back of the heel where the Achilles Tendon attaches.
Haglund’s are often associated with bursitis.
They are often caused by rubbing of the shoe heel counter and can be quite painful especially during exercise.
Treatments include changing or modifying footwear, stretching and ultimately, surgery.
What can you do for yourself?
Stretching can help with heel pain but it is dependant on knowing the cause so that your self-help is appropriate.
If pain persists consult a Podiatrist for assessment and a treatment plan.
Alternatively, you can speak to your GP who can arrange imaging, physiotherapy and if the pain persists, steroid injections.
Remember – pain is a warning – don’t ignore it!
What can we do for you?
Successful treatment is always based on accurate assessment.
We offer bio-mechanical assessment, gait analysis, custom orthotics and Shockwave – where appropriate.