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Why does my heel hurt?

Spoiler alert: You can’t just walk off the pain

Is that a rock in the heel of your shoe? No, it's probably plantar fasciitis, a common foot condition that can affect people of all ages and lifestyles.

Gundersen Decorah Clinic podiatrist Craig Sullivan, DPM, says if it were up to him, everyone would wear quality running shoes with arch support—all the time—to prevent (and help heal) heel pain.

"And going barefoot would be forbidden," Dr. Sullivan says. "Nothing will bring you into our office quicker than flipflops or going barefoot. You can go barefoot, as long as you're asleep or underwater."

Dr. Sullivan says foot pain, especially plantar fasciitis, is really no laughing matter, but it is something that most of us can avoid.

What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is aggravation and inflammation of the connective tissue–fascia–joining the heel bone to the major structures of your foot. As the tissue is misused, it can start tearing away. The result is heel pain that can range from mild to debilitating.

What are symptoms of plantar fasciitis?

  •     Onset of pain the bottom of the heel
  •     Heel pain after inactivity, such as when you get up in the morning or step out of your car

As the blood circulates and the muscles stretch, pain might subside, but only temporarily.

4 How to treat plantar fasciitis heel pain

There are many ways to treat heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis. Starting with conservative treatments at home is often the best place to start. Our Gundersen Decorah podiatry experts recommend trying these tips to begin easing your heel pain:

  1. Stretching exercises, especially the tight muscles in the back of the leg/calves

  2. Taking anti-inflammatory medicine, such as aspirin or ibuprofen

  3. Wearing quality footwear: “Get a great pair of running shoes and staple them to your feet until you feel better,” Dr. Sullivan jokes.
  4. Using an orthotic shoe insert to support your arches. Gundersen Decorah podiatrists can provide high-quality over-the-counter inserts at competitive prices. Our podiatrists can also make custom inserts.

If these measures don’t start to provide relief, Dr. Sullivan says next stages to treat heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis can include physical therapy, wearing a night splint, cortical steroid injections, immobilizing the foot and (rarely) surgical intervention to lengthen the ligament so it isn't pulling away the muscle.

“We'd be happy to see you in the clinic," Dr. Sullivan says. "We'd be even happier to see you wearing a good pair of shoes."

To stay a step ahead of heel pain, make an appointment close to home with one of our Gundersen Decorah podiatrists today: (563) 382-3140.


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La Crosse, WI 54601

(608) 782-7300

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