Common Sources of Heel Pain
Heel pain often arises when the demands we place on our feet become too great.
We ask a lot of the structures that support us. Our feet and ankles can endure forces of up to two times our body weight just engaged in normal walking. Now think about how much more force there is in running!
While our bodies are made for the task, there are still times when there is enough sudden force or repetitive force applied that something becomes injured. Some of the more common we treat include:
- Plantar fasciitis. The most common source of heel pain for adults, this condition is caused by an inflamed tissue (plantar fascia) running along the underside of your foot. When subjected to excessive stress, the fascia sustains tiny rips and becomes inflamed as a result. Your body then works to repair the fascia during periods of rest, but the tears can reopen with the first steps afterwards. For this reason, a primary symptom of plantar fasciitis is sharp heel pain in the morning.
- Achilles tendinitis. The Achilles tendon is the body’s strongest tendon, and is quite durable, but it’s not infallible. When overworked, the Achilles becomes inflamed. Pain in the back of the heel is typically strongest during, or immediately following, physical activity and will become stronger over time. This injury often happens to long-distance runners and “weekend warriors” (who sporadically engage in intense physical activity).
- Sever’s disease. Plantar fasciitis is the leading cause of heel pain for adults, but Sever’s is the most common source for kids (especially adolescents). Sever’s isn’t actually a disease, though. Instead, it is a condition that occurs when the heel bone reaches physical maturity before the Achilles tendon. This leads to tightness and pulling in the back of the heel. The pain is often worse with physical activity and treatment is centered on relieving it (since the condition will resolve itself over time, without any long-term issues).