Highlighting the Leading Cause of Heel Pain

Consistent pain in one or both of your heels may negatively affect your mobility and prevent you from maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. There are many causes of heel pain, including Achilles tendinitis, bursitis, heel spurs, and stress fractures. However, there is one in particular that has proven to be the leading cause.

What is the Leading Cause of Heel Pain? 

The leading cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, approximately 2 million people are treated for plantar fasciitis annually. But what exactly is plantar fasciitis? Let’s take a look!

What is Plantar Fasciitis? 

To understand what plantar fasciitis is, it’s essential to understand the anatomy of the human foot. There’s a thin, long ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes called the plantar fascia, and it’s responsible for absorbing shocks and providing arch support. Given the ligament’s location and the high stresses (and repetitive motions) placed upon it, the tissue is prone to damage and tears. When this happens, the tissue becomes inflamed and then you find yourself in consistent pain. 

How Do You Know if You Have Plantar Fasciitis?

The severity of your symptoms will largely depend on how much damage your plantar fascia has sustained. For most people, a common symptom of plantar fasciitis is sharp and/or stabbing pain along the bottom of the foot. The pain might be especially apparent in the morning after getting out of bed or when standing up after long periods of sitting or laying down. 

Some patients also report feeling pain in their heels after they’ve exercised or had to stand on hard surfaces for an extended period. Other symptoms include a swollen heel and a tight Achilles tendon (the Achilles tendon connects your heel bone to your calf). If you have one or more of these symptoms, it’s important to take note of them and seek medical care.

What Made This Happen?

There can be many contributing factors to your developing plantar fasciitis. It is very common among athletes and overweight people. 

Athletes are prone to develop plantar fasciitis because they walk, run, jump, and perform other repetitive motions and/or high-impact activities that can damage the ligament; this is referred to as “overuse.” Some athletes also do not take the time to stretch before exercising, which can cause tight calf muscles and put additional stress on the plantar fascia. 

People who are overweight can develop plantar fasciitis simply due to the amount of weight placed on their feet. Plantar fasciitis is also likely to develop in people who have flat feet or high arches as well as people who work in a setting that involves them having to stand on hard surfaces for hours at a time.

Improper footwear can play a role in damaging the plantar fascia, too. High heels and flip-flops are examples of footwear that severely lack the cushioning and support that your feet need.

Walking barefoot can cause heel pain like plantar fasciitis

Can I Prevent Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis can be prevented. Some ways to prevent plantar fasciitis include:

  • Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI).
  • Stretching before exercising.
  • Moving and stretching after prolonged standing (especially on hard surfaces).
  • Resting your feet after exercising and allowing them to recover.
  • Wear proper footwear, such as athletic shoes with proper cushioning and arch support. Custom orthotics can provide the cushion and support your feet need with every step!
  • Take the time to speak to our podiatrists about any concerns you may have or pain you may be feeling.

If you have—or suspect you have—plantar fasciitis, treat it as you would any other concerning medical issue: with urgency. The sooner you schedule an appointment with our office and speak with our podiatrists, the sooner they can create a customized care plan that can alleviate your symptoms. Plantar fasciitis likely will not go away without implementing behavioral changes and/or seeking professional treatment.

What are My Treatment Options for Plantar Fasciitis?

There are a couple of different options you will have, and each case of plantar fasciitis can be unique. Our podiatrists have found these to be the best options most of the time.

Rest and Ice

As difficult as it may be to stop participating in activities you enjoy, it’s important to allow your feet to rest, which will, in turn, permit the damaged tissue to heal.

Ice can be helpful in terms of reducing inflammation. Consider freezing a water bottle and then rolling your foot over the bottle for 15-20 minutes several times a day.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can design a proper stretching routine for you. Stretching your plantar fascia and calf muscles should offer relief. You can also count on your physical therapist to recommend other ways to decrease inflammation.

Corticosteroid Shots

An inflammatory medication called cortisone can be directly injected into the plantar fascia ligament. These shots are designed to lessen your pain and reduce inflammation.

Braces and splints

Braces and splints are another treatment option. Consider investing in a splint that you wear while you sleep. This type of splint stretches your plantar fascia and can reduce the pain you may experience first thing in the morning.

Custom Orthotics

Our podiatrists may also recommend custom orthotics. Custom orthotics are medical devices that you insert into your shoes, and they’re made just for you. They provide the cushioning and support you need and can make it easier to walk, stand, and perform similar physical movements.


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that “because more than 90% of patients with plantar fasciitis recover with nonsurgical treatment, surgery is generally reserved for people who have not seen improvement after 12 months of aggressive nonsurgical treatment.”

Surgical options include gastrocnemius recession and partial plantar fascia release. The former is a procedure that involves lengthening the calf muscles, while the latter is a procedure that involves making an incision on the bottom or side of the heel to reveal the place where the ligament meets the bone and cutting it. This cut can help relieve tension within the tissue.

Contact Us Today

If you have heel pain, you may have plantar fasciitis. Please don’t ignore the pain or learn to live with it. Plantar fasciitis may influence you to change the way you walk so you can avoid the pain, and this can lead to developing complications in your back, knees, and/or hips. Our trusted and well-respected podiatrists, Dr. Haddad and Dr. Reister, can diagnose the issue, treat your heel pain, and make you feel confident in the variety of treatment options available to you.

Schedule an appointment at Richardson Podiatry Center today so we can determine the treatment options that would work best. Our office is conveniently located at 2001 North Collins Boulevard, Suite 103 in Richardson. We are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. You can contact us by calling 972-690-5374, or by completing this form on our website. We’ll use our expertise to quickly get you back on your feet!