Heel pain is a major problem, especially if you're active or a runner. Luckily, I offer many forms of heel pain relief in my Houston podiatry office. But some people are afraid to come in and get help. Often because they think seeing the podiatrist for heel pain will mean major life changes. And that's just not the case.
Of course, there are many reasons why people hesitate to come see me when they are suffering from heel pain. So often, I hear this worry: the big concern is that I will stop you from wearing your favorite shoes. You may even fear hearing that you have to wear orthopedic shoes.
Please, don't let your love for shoes keep you walking in pain. Because I can help you without banning your favorite kicks. Now, shoe choice does play a role in treating heel pain, I'll rarely, if ever, do something as extreme as banning shoes. Instead, I'll start with minimally invasive interventions. And we'll go from there until you feel better!
Better Support for Heel Pain Relief
Long before I look at your shoes, I'll look at the structure of your foot and ankle. That's because heel pain is commonly due to the tension of the plantar fascia ligament on the heel bone. Which means that supporting that ligament will be an important part of treatment.
To begin, I'll recommend shoes that have support or can have support added to them. So, if you wear flip-flops or original Converse much of the time, you might need to change your footwear. But that's not always the case. In fact, most closed-toed shoes can accommodate an orthotic device. Which means we can add support to your favorite kicks. Instead of shoving them at the back of your closet.
But why is a custom foot orthotic so useful at relieving heel pain? Well, it helps control the forces in your feet that cause the extra tension on your tendons or ligaments. And, since that tension causes the inflammation, removing it can often cure your heel pain.
That's why custom orthotics are the best long term treatment for plantar fasciitis. Because, by getting to the root of the problem, they'll ensure that your heel pain does not return in the future.
For that reason, I often recommend orthotics to heel pain patients. But that's not the only remedy I'll discuss during a heel pain visit. Because, as it turns out, other simple lifestyle changes may also prevent this problem.
Rotating Shoes to Prevent Inflammation
Remember when I said I wouldn't make you change your favorite shoes? Well, would you be upset if I said you should change them out, only wearing them every other day? I'm guessing that won't be a major ask. But it could make a big difference when it comes to your heel pain. And here's why.
When it comes to design and construction, different shoes are made for different activities. So, before you lace up for the day, you'll have to think about where your schedule takes you.
The first question to consider is how will you be getting around. If you're running, or hitting the gym, you'll need one type of sneaker. But if you're walking or going to the office, others may be better.
If you're going to run, you should select a running shoe. Now, that term is very specific. Because, shoes for running need to be flexible. They should also have extra cushioning to absorb the higher impact of your foot falls. If they don't, tension will come back into the picture for your tendons. And that means heel pain won't be far behind.
But what about other workouts, you may ask? Can I wear my running shoes to hit the elliptical or spin bike? Again, I'm going to err on the side of caution and say, no. If you're doing an indoor cardio workouts, you want a basic cross-trainer such as the Nike Free Metcon 4. These shoes should have basic cushioning and enough support for most workouts. (But if you're playing sports like basketball, be sure to watch the ankle cut and get the support you need. Otherwise, heel pain and ankle sprains could be your problem.)
Of course, if more intense workouts are on the table, your shoes will have to change again. For CrossFit style classes, you'll need shoes that have a flat sole, running heel to toe. (That means no toe rise, please, no matter how trendy that sneaker feature.) You'll also want a higher-rise sneaker, to support and protect your ankle bone.
Oh, and one more thought, before I move on to the fit of your shoes. I'd like you to know that even the most supportive sneakers may not prevent heel pain. So you may want a running orthotic and another pair for your other footwear.
Fitting Guides for Proper Shoe Choice
Again, I'm not here to cure your heel pain by tossing your favorite shoes. But I will talk you about how all your shoes fit your feet. Consider these your new shoe shopping rules.
If your shoes fit properly, they should feel comfortable the first time you wear them. (And every time after that.) Make sure you try on new shoes before you buy them. And walk or even jog around the store to check that fit.
Here’s another guideline to follow. When checking the size on your shoes, look for a thumb’s width of space between the front of your big toe and shoe's end.
Don't feel like measuring? No problem! The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says you neeb to be able to wiggle all your toes with ease. So, as long as you can do that, and your heel isn't slipping, you should be ok on fit.
A final thought. Don't wear damaged or worn out sneakers. You've probably heard you need to replace your shoes every 400 miles or so. But I've got an easier trick for when to replace your sneakers. And you should always toss out any pair that hurts your feet. Or doesn't feel as supportive as it did when you first bought the shoes.
So there you have it. You don't have to be scared to see me if you're dealing with heel pain. Because, chances are, I'll let you keep the shoes you love. All while offering you quick pain relief.
What does that mean now? If you're feeling pain on the bottom or the back of your heel, contact Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider right away. I'll get rid of your pain and help you hold on to your favorite shoes.