When your feet hurt, there are many different conditions that could be causing your pain. When the pain is localized in the heels, many times, the cause of the problem is plantar fasciitis. This is an inflammation of the thick, connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your feet.

It's a very common problem. After all, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says it affects 2 million people each year. Worse? Over 70% of those individuals say they have daily moderate to severe discomfort.

Now, that's a lot of heel pain in this country. Which could be a problem, if we weren't very lucky. Because, as it turns out, there are a whole host of treatment options that can help relieve this pain. And the ones we'll explore in this article are: 

  • Non-invasive
  • Inexpensive
  • Carry few possibilities of complication
  • Can be done anywhere

So, what's the first miracle cure we'll talk about? It's called foam rolling! And it works really well!  

What is a foot foam roller? 

When you first start foam rolling your feet, gentle pressure is best to avoid injury

Foam rolling is already a staple in most runner's cool down routines. It helps loosen up tight muscles by applying firm yet gentle pressure to the affected area. The same is true when it comes to foot rollers: they should be used to create pressure on the bottom of your foot. The roller you use could be anything. It is typically a hard stick made of (you guessed it) inflexible foam material. 

When it comes to larger areas of your body, you don't need to worry about how much pressure you apply with the roller. Your feet, however, are a little more delicate. You should start by applying gentle pressure, and working your way up to harder pushes. When you're dealing with heel pain, that gentle pressure may loosen up tight foot muscles. Those muscles are pulling on your plantar fascia and contributing to its inflammation. Go too hard, though, and you could further irritate the sensitive area.

With that said, here's how to foam roll your foot. Find any trigger points on your soles (tight spots or knots.) Place those areas onto the foam and gently roll, back and forth, for about 20 seconds per knot. Now, remember, foam rolling hurts, often quite a bit at first. But it's important to roll through that initial discomfort if you want to loosen up your feet. Your pain will decrease by applying gentle pressure on the roller. Move it slowly across your foot with back and forth motions. This will decrease your pain and the areas of tension will begin to loosen up. 

For newbies to foam rolling, we suggest that you work on one spot in a day, giving your foot a chance to get used to the new sensation. If you experience tenderness during a session, give your foot a day off between rolls. If discomfort increases while you roll, or feels sharp instead of dull, stop rolling right away! Come into the office to make sure you're not creating new problems for yourself. Otherwise, go forth and roll away. (With, that is, a few exceptions...keep reading to find out if foam rolling is not right for you.) 

I Have Diabetes. Can I Still Foam Roll Feet?

This depends. If the roller is made of foam that you can depress with your finger, there should be no problem rolling your foot. If the roller is a harder material, like wood then you shouldn't risk it. Too much pressure in one area of your foot can create a wound. A softer material, such as foam won't put you at risk.

Of course, if you have any questions about what the best choice is for you, don't make a solo decision. Instead, come on in and ask about your options. We may recommend alternative treatment options, including the ones listed below.

Other Non-Invasive Heel Pain Treatments 

If foam rolling your feet isn't for you, that's no problem. I've got many other options you can try. First up? Simple stretches can help relieve tension in your plantar fascia. And that can resolve your pain.

One easy stretch to try requires nothing but your feet and some stairs. Simply stand on the stair, allowing your heels to hang off the ledge. Then, lower your heels below the level of your toes, and do at least 10 reps per foot. (Check out some more stretches to beat heel pain here.)

Changing your shoes can also help relieve heel pain. If you've been wearing flat shoes that offer little arch support, they could put too much pressure on your plantar fascia. If that's the case, choosing more supportive shoes (or adding orthotics) could solve your problems!

For some people, changing their shoes will offer enough relief. But others may need extra support. So wearing a night splint may help, since this can keep your plantar fascia in a stretched position. Recently, we also started treating heel pain with regenerative medicine. That's why we offer Shockwave Therapy for heel pain in our Houston, TX podiatry practice. Many patients also find lasting relief by seeking PRP injections for heel pain

Finally, even after you resolve your discomfort, we'll have to take measures to prevent pain from returning. Changing your workout routine may help relieve pain and inflammation. In some cases, if your heel pain is persisting, I may suggest taking a break from exercise. Then, we'll look at how hard and how often you train. So we can help you cross train and build rest days into your routine, to avoid heel pain relapses. Finally, we'll have to look at your foot shape. Both flat feet and high arches can leave you with heel pain. So if either of these applies to you, we'll also need to fit you for custom orthotics

Resolving Heel Pain in Houston Texas

When we see heel pain patients in the office, we recommend the least invasive treatment that will be effective. If that means telling you to go and foam roll your feet, and that solves your problem, we'll be so happy.

But we'll also keep watching your progress to make sure your pain doesn't return. Because we want you to experience lasting relief.

Are you experiencing heel pain? And you've tried foam rolling alone, or other less invasive options, and you're still in pain?

If at-home solutions aren't solving your heel pain problem, it's time to come in to get it checked. Contact Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider for an immediate appointment. We've got an effective protocol to get you out of pain.