Did you know that about 10% of people experience chronic heel pain at some point? If you’re one of the millions of US adults struggling with heel pain, you probably want to know why.
Board-certified podiatrist Jennifer Tauber, DPM, and the team at New Canaan Podiatry in New Canaan, Connecticut, understand. From simple issues like wearing the wrong shoes for your feet, to more complex problems like peripheral nerve damage, many possible causes of chronic heel pain exist.
It may seem like a simple body part, but your heel is quite complex. It’s made up of three main parts: the heel bone, the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissues that runs along the bottom of your foot, and the Achilles tendon, which connects your heel to your calf muscles.
Developing a problem with one or more components can cause heel pain. That’s why an evaluation with a trained podiatrist is key when experiencing chronic heel pain. We can help you get to the bottom of your foot issues so you can get back on your feet faster.
Keep reading to learn about five common and treatable causes of chronic heel pain and when it’s time to schedule an evaluation with your provider at New Canaan Podiatry.
1. Plantar fasciitis
Your plantar fascia can get inflamed and overstretched. This is called plantar fasciitis, and it can trigger chronic heel pain—especially when you take your first steps in the morning or after sitting for a period during the day. Other symptoms include:
- Pain that worsens after exercise
- Arch pain
- Swelling in the heel
- Tighter-than-normal Achilles tendon
Plantar fasciitis is very common. Over 2 million Americans suffer from it every year, making it the most common cause of chronic heel pain in the US.
At New Canaan Podiatry, Dr. Tauber treats many cases of plantar fasciitis, helping patients experience pain-free movement again. If you’re experiencing symptoms of this condition, don’t wait to seek help and get relief for your discomfort.
2. Achilles tendonitis
Like your plantar fascia, your Achilles tendons can get overused. This is especially true if you engage in high-impact exercises or sports, like tennis or basketball, or are a runner who suddenly ups the length, intensity, or duration of your runs.
When this happens, you develop a condition called Achilles tendinitis. This causes your tendon to get inflamed and sore, especially after running, climbing stairs, or playing sports. Other symptoms include heel pain, tight calf muscles, and a limited range of motion.
3. Heel spurs
Heel spurs are deposits of calcium that form on the base of your feet. Heel spurs usually result when you have osteoarthritis or another degenerative bone condition or as a reaction to the inflammation caused by plantar fasciitis.
Your body responds to the stress and inflammation of the underlying condition by building extra bone material to protect your body. Unfortunately, sometimes these bony growths poke out from the bottom of your heel and cause pain.
At New Canaan Podiatry, Dr. Tauber diagnoses heel spurs using imaging studies so you can get the proper treatment for your condition.
4. Heel bursitis
In your joints you have a sac, called the bursa, that allows your tendons and muscles to move smoothly. Inflammation in this sac causes a condition called bursitis. People develop heel bursitis for different reasons, including:
- Overuse/stress actions (running, jumping, walking)
- Having Achilles tendinitis
- Starting a new, intense workout/exercise routine
- Sudden increase in the intensity/duration of a workout
- Having a history of arthritis
- Wearing shoes that don’t have proper heel cushioning
Sometimes heel bursitis is related to structural issues in your feet that cause you to have an abnormal gait. Dr. Tauber recommends bursitis treatments to manage your inflammation and provide pain relief.
5. Nerve troubles
One of the most common nerve problems that lead to chronic heel pain is tarsal tunnel syndrome (TTS). You’ve probably heard of carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs in the wrist when a nerve gets pinched or compressed.
A similar condition results in your heel when the tarsal tunnel located inside your ankle gets compressed. This can happen for many reasons, including:
- Having flat feet/fallen arches
- Swelling due to a sprain or fracture
- Chronic health conditions that cause swelling and nerve trouble (e.g., diabetes)
- Having a tumor, cyst, large vein, or bone spur
Dr. Tauber may recommend trying splints, braces, or custom orthotics before recommending surgery for TTS.
Get to the bottom of your chronic heel pain by scheduling an evaluation online or over the phone with Dr. Tauber at New Canaan Podiatry.