The most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. A telltale symptom of plantar fasciitis is a stabbing pain in the heel upon taking the first steps in the morning, pain that eases as walking continues.
The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that connects the toes to the heel bone. When the plantar fascia becomes inflamed, the heel hurts when you stand or walk. While you sleep at night, the plantar fascia contracts; when you rise in the morning, the sudden pressure on the plantar fascia causes pain. For the same reason, you may experience intense pain after long periods of sitting.
According to the Mayo Clinic, plantar fasciitis can result from a variety of factors. High-impact exercise or activities that place a lot of stress on your heel can irritate the plantar fascia. Having a high arch, flat feet, obesity, wearing shoes with insufficient support and standing all day on hard surfaces can all contribute to developing this ailment. Middle-aged people are the most likely to be affected by plantar fasciitis.
Before getting out of bed in the morning, it is wise to stretch. Flex your foot a dozen times and use your big toe to “write” your first and last name in the air. Keep a soup can on your night table, and sit on the edge of the bed and roll the affected foot back and forth over the can for five minutes. Immediately upon getting out of bed, put on supportive shoes.
The best way to prevent plantar fasciitis is to stretch adequately before exercising, and do not make a sudden, dramatic increase in the intensity of your workout program. Make sure your shoes have adequate arch support and heel cushioning; do not spend the warmer months solely in flip flops. Don’t be tempted to sacrifice support for style. Maintain a reasonable weight, and if you are pregnant be sure to stretch your feet regularly.
If not dealt with immediately upon the first sign of discomfort, plantar fasciitis can take months to heal. It requires patience and consistency during treatment. Ice, rest and anti-inflammatory medication may be recommended as early treatment options. In the event that your foot does not respond, orthotics, cortisone shots and night splints may be suggested by your podiatrist. Surgery is considered only in the most stubborn cases of plantar fasciitis. Re-injury is common, so once your foot has healed continue to do stretches regularly and wear supportive shoes.