The Best Footwear for Heel Pain

Your feet bear the brunt of your weight every time you stand up and move. And for every mile you walk, each foot endures 60 tons of stress. While that sounds like a lot, your feet are designed to handle it. Additional stress, though, can lead to pain and inflammation of the tissues, especially those around the heel. Heel pain is the most common issue that affects the foot and ankle regions.

If you try to power through the pain instead of treating it, it can spread beyond the heel to the bottom of your feet, leading to a chronic condition with additional symptoms.

At Monroe Foot & Ankle Care in Jamesburg, New Jersey, Dr. Elliott Perel and his team offer both conservative and surgical options for treating heel pain. Here, they focus on the best footwear you can use to help combat heel pain and get you moving again.

The reasons for heel pain

Before we can talk about footwear, it’s important to understand the sources of heel pain. While there are a number of causes, a few are the most commonly seen in podiatric practice.

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is by far the most common reason for heel pain. The plantar fascia is a thick ligament reaching from the heel bone to the toes. When it stretches beyond its elastic properties, the fibers become inflamed, leading to pain. You may feel the pain where the ligament attaches to the heel, but it’s also possible to feel it in the middle of the foot.

In addition, structural problems, such as flat feet or very high arches, can strain the tissue, as can wearing shoes that don’t have enough arch support.

Achilles tendinitis

The Achilles tendon anchors your heel bone to your calf muscles. When you run, jump, walk, or even push up on your toes, you use this tendon. Achilles tendinitis results from overuse and is seen in runners who’ve upped the intensity and/or duration of their workouts, and in weekend warriors.

When it’s stretched too far, the tendon develops microscopic tears. That causes the tissue to thicken and weaken, and you feel pain at the back of the heel. You may also have a limited range of motion when you flex your foot.

Heel bursitis

The bursa is a fibrous sac located at the back of the heel that’s filled with fluid; it serves to cushion the bones, ligaments, and muscles. It may become inflamed from repeated irritation, such as when you regularly land hard on your heels or when you wear shoes that distribute your weight unevenly toward the heel.

You may develop pain either deep in the heel, or sometimes in the Achilles tendon, which can swell along with the bursae. The more you move, the worse the pain gets.

How does footwear help treat heel pain?

Unfortunately, many people choose shoes that lead to heel problems, from over or under cushioning to size to construction. These can result in an altered gait and lead to further discomfort. There are many brands of shoes that aim to address specific foot and heel issues, and you can find out the “best in each category” with a quick internet search.

Orthotics are often a major part of a treatment plan Dr. Perel draws up for foot and ankle concerns. While you’re taking OTC painkillers and anti-inflammatories, he might also prescribe orthotics to further allow your foot to heal and prevent re-injury.

Orthotics can support and correct feet that aren’t ideally positioned. For example, when your ankle overpronates, it rolls slightly inward or downward when you take a step, unbalancing the foot and its tissues. This is common for people with very flat feet. Wearing orthotics helps provide additional arch support to prevent the injurious movement.

Orthotics may also provide additional support and cushioning in areas other than the arch, such as the heel or ball of the foot. Because these supports are custom-made, they fit your feet exactly.

Dr. Perel writes a prescription for an orthotic material based on what condition and symptoms you have. Types range from rigid — usually made from carbon fiber or plastic materials — to accommodative, which are highly flexible and provide more cushioning than immobilizing ones.

Full-shoe inserts are similar to the insoles many athletic shoes include, while a heel insert is smaller and fits into the back cup of the shoe. Ankle-foot orthotics have not only a shoe insert but also an upright portion extending from the heel upward and around the calf. Orthotics can be used in conjunction with assistive braces or kinesiology taping.

If you’re having heel pain and want to learn more about how your choice of footwear can help you, give Monroe Foot & Ankle Care a call at 732-521-6166, or book your appointment online with us today.

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