Pain behind the heel is Achilles tendonitis. This pain can also affect the inner or outer side of the heel and foot.
In most cases, pain is not caused by a single acute injury, but ongoing repetitive trauma to the plantar fascia (the thick band of connective tissue between the toes and your heel), that becomes inflamed.
Facts about heel pain
- Heel pain is usually felt either under the heel or just behind it.
- Pain typically starts gradually, with no injury to the affected area. It is often triggered by wearing flat shoes.
- In most cases, the pain is under the foot, towards the front of the heel.
- Home care such as rest, applying ice to the heel, proper-fitting footwear and arch supports are often enough to ease the pain.
How can you prevent heel pain?
Prevention of heel pain involves reducing the stress on that part of the body.
How can you prevent heel pain? – Tips include:
- Wearing shoes when on hard ground, and not going barefoot.
- Wear shoes that fit properly and support the foot, especially for your specific arch shape.
- Choose footwear with heels made of a material that can absorb some impact stress.
- Stretch your muscles before exercising.
- Pace yourself during physical activity.
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
- Rest when you feel tired or when your muscles ache.
The right shoe can make a big difference. The best shoes for plantar fasciitis are the ones that have or will accept good arch supports such as an orthotic insole. These will have plenty of cushioning, shock absorption and a thick heel. They will be supportive and stabilise your ankles.
We do not recommend memory foam insoles, as although cushioned, they are not sufficiently supportive. If you are an active person, it is recommended to change your footwear every 500 miles or when the back of the cushion of the shoe gets more than 2 creases.
Exercises and Stretching
You can wait for the fascia to heal on its own. Or you can work to strengthen it and make it more flexible and recover faster. Plantar fasciitis stretches and exercise help relieve heel pain, improve muscle strength and increase flexibility in all the muscles, tissues and ligaments in your foot.
Calf Stretch – Lightly rest your hands on a wall for support and stand with one foot forward and one foot back. Bend your front knee and lunge forward from your hips, keeping your back upright. Keep your back leg pointed straight forward and your knee straight and press your heel down on the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each side.
Heel Raises – Stand at the wall or counter for support and then raise up onto your toes, then slowly lower your heels back to the starting position. Go up and down until your feet are fatigued. Perform two or three sets. As you build strength, you can progress to standing on one foot and then to standing on one foot with your heels hanging off the edge of a step so that they can drop lower.
Rolling Pin or Spike Ball – Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Loosen the plantar fascia by rolling the bottom of your foot along a rolling pin or spike ball. Do this for two to three minutes.
Toe Stretch – Sit in a chair and cross your bad foot over the opposite knee. Pull back on your toes to stretch the bottom of your foot. Hold it for 10 seconds while massaging the bottom of your foot. Repeat three times.
Belt or Towel Stretch – Sit on the floor or sit up in bed. Place a belt or twisted towel under your forefoot. Keeping your leg straight and without lifting your calf, pull and hold your forefoot toward you, holding for several seconds. Do not jerk the towel/belt. Gently release the tension and repeat 10 times.
Towel Curl – Sit in a chair and place a towel on the floor under your painful foot. Curl your toes towards you and work to scrunch up the towel. Repeat 10 times.
Take a look at the video below, which demonstrates how to carry out the above stretches.
A daily routine of plantar fasciitis stretches, supportive shoes, may help to heal your heel pain much faster.