When heel pain and discomfort becomes an issue, it can be a major disruption to your day-to-day routine, especially if you live a busy, active life. Luckily, there are ways to treat and prevent them that can help to get you back on your feet again.
What is heel pain?
Heel pain (plantar fasciitis) is more common than you might think with one in ten of us experiencing prolonged heel pain at least once in our lives. In most cases, heel pain is caused by damage to the plantar fascia, the band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the other bones in the foot. If the plantar fascia comes under strain, it can become weakened, swollen or inflamed, causing severe heel pain when you stand or walk (1).
What are the most common causes and symptoms of heel pain?
Strenuous or high-impact activities like running or jumping can give rise to heel pain. If ignored, staying active while suffering from severe heel pain could lead to long-term damage, which might require expensive medical treatment or physical therapy further down the line (2). Luckily, there are early steps you can take to prevent heel pain and carry on with your busy life. The first step is knowing what to look out for. Heel pain can be mild or severe and usually comes in the form of isolated pain and stiffness either directly below the heel or just behind it although some experience pain at the bottom mid-foot area (3). Often, heel pain can occur first thing in the morning when you’ve taken your first steps after a night’s sleep (4). While this might improve throughout the day, it can reappear after prolonged standing or exercise.
How to prevent heel pain and discomfort?
While heel pain can be a nuisance, with a little patience and a few lifestyle adjustments most people make a full recovery without the need for invasive medical treatment. Be sure to speak to your doctor if your symptoms become severe or disruptive, remember to keep an eye out for early warning signs, and take preventative measures even if you aren’t currently experiencing any pain.
If you find that your feet feel sore and uncomfortable, it is a good idea to be prepared to avoid any severe problems in the future:
1. Wear comfortable footwear
It’s important to wear footwear that keeps your arches supported, helping to prevent strain and acting as a shock absorber when your feet impact the ground. Changing your footwear regularly is a good idea, and it’s better to avoid shoes which are completely flat with no heel support. For more advice on choosing the right shoes to support your feet, check out our feature on how your shoes could be causing your heel pain.
Try some exercises to stretch out your calves and the area beneath your feet to help you warm up, improve flexibility and speed up recovery time (5). Why not look at our Foot Gymnastics feature for nine steps to stretch out and restore flexibility to your feet.
What is the treatment for heel pain?
Heel pain is generally considered to be highly treatable especially if detected early, with most people affected making a full recovery (6). While it’s not the kind of ailment that will go away overnight, with a little patience and a few simple recovery techniques, you could be back to walking, skipping and even running again before you know it. The PRICE method - protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation - is a popular form of self-care particularly for mild cases of heel pain and Achilles tendon injury.
1. Protect your heel from further injury
2. Rest Up - Try to minimise the time you spend on your feet throughout the day
3. Ice - Specialists recommend applying ice to ease the pain
4. Compress - Use an elastic bandage around the lower leg and ankle to keep down swelling.
5. Elevate – Put your feet up when you're sitting or lying down.
No matter what your problem, there is a solution and foot pain or discomfort of any kind should not be ignored. The important thing is to distinguish the difference between what needs treatment and what can be eased with the use of proper footwear and the correct type of insole. This video will give top tips to make your feet feel great. *It is important to speak to your doctor if your heel pain becomes severe or disruptive.
If you’re not keeping them up on the sofa all day, it’s important that your feet get the additional support they need throughout the day to prevent discomfort in the first place. Scholl GelActiv Everyday Insoles can help to keep you comfortable all day long while you get on with your everyday activities. If you work on your feet, you may consider the GelActiv Work range, specially designed for long-lasting support to get yours through the working day. And for those of you who spend your days and nights in high heels, there are GelActiv Insoles for Her, specially designed to give your high heels a sneaker feel. Remember, if you are concerned that your discomfort is becoming severe, it’s important to speak to an orthotic specialist.
As with everyday shoes, it’s important to choose trainers that offer adequate support and cushioning against the impact of the ground. Depending on how you like to stay fit, there are different shoes designed to suit different activities, so talk to a specialist before picking out your next pair of trainers. Insoles, like Scholl GelActiv Sport Insoles, are a great way of adding extra support and cushioning to your sports shoes, helping you to work out for longer and to avoid further strain and pressure throughout. Learn more about Scholl’s range of insoles here.