What Is Your Worst Heel Pain Enemy? Yourself!
Heel pain is rarely a simple problem. If there was a way anyone could just “switch it off,” we would have a lot fewer people coming in through our doors needing help.
But does that mean you are helpless against your heel pain? Far from it! Although heel pain can stem from a variety of causes—and some of them can even be circumstances well beyond your control—your choices and attitudes toward foot care can play major roles in either preventing some forms of heel pain or keeping current heel pain from becoming worse.
Certain habits and ways of thinking can make heel pain a lot worse than it has to be—and in those cases, you only have yourself to blame! Here are a few ways you can be your own worst enemy when it comes to heel pain.
“I Don’t Need New Shoes”
So let’s say you have invested in a good pair of shoes. They provide good arch support, keep your midfoot stable, and have cushioning where it’s needed.
But how long have you had those shoes?
The same shoes that helped keep your feet comfortable at the start will not always be able to provide that same level of care forever. As shoes wear out, cushioning erodes, stability suffers, and eventually those shoes are doing more harm than good. Sometimes it happens so gradually that you barely recognize what you’ve lost over time.
It can be a bit tricky to determine when shoes are ready to give up the ghost. It should be before they start literally falling apart, though. It terms of casual shoes or walking shoes, look for worn, flat spots on the outer sole, scuffs on the heels, or seeing that they tilt when you lay them down on a flat surface and view them from behind.
If you would like some advice on the best kinds of shoes to choose for your specific needs, we are more than happy to help you. Your feet spend way too much time in your shoes to make the worst choices!
“I Can Go a Bit Harder/Work a Bit Longer”
Our feet are built to take a lot of strain and force on a daily basis, but they have limits—and that’s even when your foot structure is perfect. If you have a gait abnormality such as flat feet, that strain may very well concentrate and increase in certain areas.
Stress that goes beyond the threshold your feet are currently able to handle can lead to sources of heel pain such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures, and others. Each of these can be classified as an “overuse injury,” which basically means you hurt yourself by pushing your body too hard or too far.
This can happen a few different ways. For those who are physically active (especially runners), an injury can result by pushing yourself to a high intensity very quickly without proper conditioning or warmup, or by simply never giving your body enough recovery time. If your workout plan is increasing your intensity too quickly and not giving yourself enough rest days, you’re at a much higher risk of an overuse injury.
But you don’t necessarily have to be moving all the time to stress your heels out too much. Jobs that involve plenty of standing or stooping, such as factory line work or plumbing, can also place excess stress on your feet for long periods of time.
What can you do about this? Give your body the relief it needs whenever you possibly can. This might mean changing up your workout routine and conditioning. If you’re starting out with running and would like a few tips, download our Beginner’s Guide to Running.
For workers, this may mean taking a few minutes each hour to move and stretch, or placing a padded mat down where you stand most often for additional support and cushioning. These changes can have a significant impact on your comfort in the long run.
“I’m Too Busy to Address the Discomfort”
This jives a bit with the previous section. If you don’t have time to rest and take care of your heels, you should really be making some. Things will not tend to improve otherwise, and are likely to become even worse.
There are some quick and easy things you can do to help ease heel pain discomfort. This can include massaging and icing your feet—something you can do at the same time, and even while sitting at a desk!
Take a water bottle, fill it up about ¾ of the way and freeze it. When needed, take it out, set it on the floor, and roll it back and forth beneath your foot. An easy method of cold massage that feels great! If a frozen water bottle is not something you can manage for one reason or another, a tennis ball or golf ball can provide a good rolling massage (and you can also put them in the freezer, we suppose).
“There’s Nothing I Can Do to Stop This.”
Of all the self-defeating attitudes, this one is the most tragic.
Perhaps you have tried one or two ways to stop your heel pain and found no success. That can be enough to make someone believe nothing will ever help, but that is far from the truth!
Like we said before, heel pain can be complex. You need to know the causes behind it before you can take real action. Treatment methods that failed to work likely weren’t getting to the actual source of the problem.
At McVay Foot & Ankle, we are experts in diagnosing and treating heel pain. From custom orthotic inserts to physical therapy and (very rarely) surgery, we can help you find the best ways to manage or eliminate your heel pain—all while fitting in with your individual needs.
Call our Colorado Springs office at (719) 266-5000 to schedule an appointment. If you would prefer to contact us electronically, please feel free to fill out our online form and a member of our staff will respond to you.