Heel pain affects more than two million people every year so it’s likely we’ll all experience the agony of heel pain at some point in our life. Of course, getting to the bottom of heel pain isn’t easy—particularly when it’s frequently misdiagnosed and there’s a myriad of myths on the best course of action.
Sports podiatrist Dr Brenden Brown, founder of A Step Ahead Foot + Ankle Care in Sydney and former president of the Australasian Podiatry Council, says,
“Heel pain is one of the most common foot conditions and yet it’s a debilitating complaint that can last for years without proper treatment.
“We see between 10-15 patients a day with heel pain. Before seeing us, some of our patients put up with their heel pain for almost a decade due to bad advice, incorrectly self-treating or simply doing nothing about it.”
Dr Brown has five key advice points for addressing heel pain and dispelling some of the popular misconceptions.
#1 Bruising isn’t always the cause of Heel Pain
“Heel pain is often thought to be caused by a bruised heel; in my experience, this is highly unlikely. A significantly more common culprit is plantar fasciitis; this is where the fibrous tissue in the foot has been over-stretched and becomes inflamed and painful,” says Dr Brown.
“Too many cases of heel pain are passed off as bruising or wrongly attributed to heel spurs or Achilles tendonitis. Addressing heel pain really does start with getting the right diagnosis.”
#2 Action is essential for Heel Pain
“Many people suffering from heel pain ignore their condition—hoping rest and time will cure it. Every day I see patients who have put up with their heel pain for months, years even. Unfortunately the ‘zero action approach’ will just prolong the pain.”
#3 Barefoot isn’t best for Heel Pain
“Going barefoot might seem like the natural thing to do but walking around without shoes puts additional strain on the plantar fascia (the fibrous ligament that runs along the bottom of the foot, from the heel bone to the toes)—particularly first thing in the morning when the muscles and tissues are tight.
“Of course, it’s worth noting that thongs, trendy trainers or even fancy footwear with special arches won’t cure heel pain. A shoe with a firm shell and a small amount of structured cushioning works best. The shoe should NEVER bend in the middle.”
#4 Injections could do more harm than good
If initial methods of treating plantar fasciitis or heel spurs fail, the next step is often steroid injections but Dr Brown warns, “The evidence for cortisone is poor. In some cases, cortisone injections can increase pain.
“One study• published by the British Society for Rheumatology showed that three months after having a cortisone injection more than 55% of patients experienced no pain relief at all. Another study revealed that injections of saline and cortisone both gave exactly the same result!
“Don’t be fooled into thinking that cortisone injections are your only option if first-line treatments have failed.”
#5 Stretching isn’t the answer
“Typical treatment for plantar fasciitis involves stretching the calves but at least 50% of the people we see have no tightness in their calf muscles! If your calf is not tight how is stretching the answer to all your heel pain problems?
“In fact, many of our patients find an increase in heel pain after attempting stretching!
“Instead, there’s an increasing body of evidence to support strengthening exercises and isometric holds. These are relatively easy to perform; they don’t require fancy equipment but they help strengthen the plantar.”
Dr Brown says, “if you have heel pain, do your feet a favour; get some professional advice. Choose a practitioner who understands heel pain and is open to new approaches. Ask the right questions to find out whether they’re experienced in dealing with this particular type of foot pain. You can ask: Is this something you treat often? How many patients do you see a day with heel pain? What’s your success rate?”
Heel Pain Calculator
You may also like to try our Heel Pain Calculator. This is the first Heel Pain calculator in the world and will help guide you to potential treatment protocols. Use this guide to help guide you to understand better the level of infection that you may have present and give helpful suggestions as to what the best therapies maybe. Head to heelpaindr.com.au
ABOUT DR BRENDEN BROWN
Founder of A Step Ahead Foot + Ankle Care in Sydney, and former president of the Australasian Podiatry Council, Dr Brenden Brown (A.K.A Dr Foot) is a wealth of knowledge on how to take care of your feet, including how to find the best shoes.
Free Report “10 things to know before choosing a Podiatrist”
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