Start Shopping

Posts Tagged ‘heel cups’

Is Your Heel Pain Heel Spurs or Plantar Fasciitis?

Suffering from heel pain is bad enough but not knowing what’s causing it or how to make it stop just makes it worse!  Terms like heel spurs and Plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis) get used interchangeably but how do you determine what’s causing your heel pain?

Define your pain

While nothing replaces a diagnosis from a physician, a few simple questions can help you narrow down your plan of action.

Do you have…

  • An incredible pain in their heel when you take you first steps in the morning or after getting up from being seated for a while?
  • A sharp, stabbing heel pain?
  • A feeling like they you stepping on a small stone?
  • Heel pain that feels like it’s in also in your arch?
  • Pain that subsides after they’ve walked around for a while?

Any one or even all of these symptoms could indicate plantar fasciitis.  Heel spurs don’t always cause pain.  In fact, heel spurs often show up unexpectedly on X-rays taken for some other problem.

So, what’s the difference?

What is Plantar Fasciitis?
The plantar fascia is a broad band of fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the forefoot. This band connects the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch of the foot.  Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia which happens when the plantar fascia is overstretched or overused.

With this condition, the pain is felt in the base of the heel and can make even everyday walking difficult.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “about 90 percent of the people who have plantar fasciitis recover with conservative treatments in just a few months. “

The two most important steps you can take to treat plantar fasciitis is to use a quality heel cup in your shoes and to perform targeted stretching exercises designed to maintain good flexibility throughout the interconnective chain of the lower leg.  In addition to these treatments, it is recommended that you reduce your activity level when experiencing severe pain and apply ice to the affected area regularly.

What is a Heel Spur?
A heel spur is a sharp bony growth at the front side of the heel bone (Calcaneus).   It usually begins on the front of your heel bone and points toward the arch of your foot — without your realizing it.

Heel spurs can cause pain in the back of the foot especially while standing or walking.  However, it should be noted that the heel spur itself is actually not causing any pain. It is the inflamed tissue around the spur that causes pain and discomfort.

Many people who suffer from heel pain are quick to conclude that they have heel spurs but general heel pain as described earlier is much more likely to be Plantar fasciitis.  Only an x-ray of the heel bone will prove whether a person has a true heel spur.

Treating a True Heel Spur

In the past, doctors often performed surgery to remove heel spurs, believing them to be the cause of the pain.  Most of that pain is now determined to be associated with plantar fasciitis. In treating plantar fasciitis now, doctors rely more on ice, heel cups, arch supports, physical therapy, and pain medications.

Sufferers from heel spurs can find relief by using a quality heel cup or arch support in their shoes.  A heel cup will provide extra cushion to the heel and reduce the amount of pressure and shock that your foot experiences.  Treating heel spurs can take some time but sufferers who use heel cups, choose sensible shoes, and include stretching and strengthening exercises for the plantar fascia and other surrounding structures such as the Achilles tendon can expect significant pain relief.

Heel Pain in Children

Remember when you were growing up…children played baseball during baseball season, football during football season and spent most of their time just running around the neighborhood with friends.  These days it’s not uncommon for girls and boys to be playing recreational or competitive sports year round. And in some cases, more than one sport at a time.  That extra wear and tear is taking its toll.

If your child has complained of heel pain, then you are not alone. 

Heel pain in children (typically between the ages of 8 to 14) is a becoming a common complaint.  While it can occur as a result of a specific injury, it is also commonly caused by Sever’s disease, (Calcaneal Apophysitis) an overuse injury that causes an inflammation of the heel’s growth plate.

As children start to experience growth spurts, the heel bone sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles and tendons.  This can cause the muscles to become tight and even over stretched, making the heel less flexible – putting pressure on the growth plate. Over time, this tightness combined with the repeated stress on the Achilles tendon from running and jumping in sports such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics can cause swelling, tenderness, and even damage to the growth plate.

How do I know if it’s Sever’s Disease?

Unlike heel pain from plantar fasciitis (which typically affects adults and often causes heel pain in the morning that feels like you’re stepping on stones), Sever’s disease causes pain at the back and the side of the child’s heel.  The pain is usually worse after physical activity and will typically lessen when the child is not active.  Squeezing the sides of the heel can often be painful.

Only a doctor can diagnose the condition for certain.  Treatment for Sever’s disease often includes:

  • Cutting back on running and jumping activities. 
  • Wearing a heel cup in all cleats and athletic shoes.
    A heel cup can provide immediate relief by cushioning the area of pain and elevating the heel bone which will reduce the pull from the calf muscles on the growth plate.
  • Daily stretching.
    Because wear and tear often begins with inflexibility. It is important to stretch the calf muscles and as tight calf muscles are common in those who suffer from Sever’s.
  • Ice.  Many find using an ice pack for 20 minutes after activity helpful as well.

Once your child is back in the game, it will help to prevent a reoccurrence if they continue to stretch, wear good supportive shoes and use a quality heel cup in their shoes.

Preventing Heel Pain

The same “treatments” that are used to help recover from Sever’s disease can also help prevent heel pain and even Sever’s disease from occurring!  Regular stretching of the calf muscles as well as strengthening of the Achilles tendon will go a long way towards preventing pain and injury.  Making sure that they have supportive shoes and placing heel cups in your athletic shoes and cleats will also help to lessen the impact and improve performance.