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Educational Resources

Why Barefoot Heel Pain is on the Rise

Here in our Spring and Tomball, TX, podiatric offices, we’ve noticed a trend: since March, we’ve seen so many more patients complaining of heel pain. And we aren’t the only ones who noticed. Recently, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) noted a similar increase in reports of heel pain, tying this uptick the original stay-at-home orders for the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s the connection? Well, it has to do with your shoes (and you not wearing them.) Allow us to explain.

Barefoot Heel Pain Barefoot heel pain

According to Priya Parthasarathy, spokesperson for the APMA, “Adults are shifting routines and adapting to new working environments, and it’s easy to neglect proper care and support for your feet.” This means that, as you stay home for your work, choosing to go barefoot all day takes away the support your feet so badly need. And if that daily pattern has left you with pain in back of your heel, you may well be dealing with plantar fasciitis.

The name may sound scary, but it’s actually one of the more common conditions we see—and effectively treat—here in our office. Because inflammation is at the root of this problem, and as one of our patients, Debby C. recently shared on Healthgrades, “Dr. Walsh … gave me an injection for inflammation and I was pain free in 1 day after months of pain.” So now, let’s look at how inflammation and plantar fasciitis go hand in hand.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis develops when there’s inflammation in the band of fibrous connective tissue (fascia) that runs along the bottom of your foot. Because this band runs from your heel to the ball of your foot, you typically experience pain in your heel with this condition. Other symptoms include along redness, swelling, or heat.

Initially, your heel pain may only pop up first thing in the morning, right when you get out of bed, and improve throughout the day. This is because your plantar fascia tightens up while you sleep in one position, and putting weight on your feet for the first time in hours tugs painfully at your inflamed band of tissue. The pain is less noticeable as you keep moving throughout your day, but may well return if you spend hours sitting in one position, like at your desk or on your couch, allowing the same stiffness to set in.

And, here’s some more bad news. Left untreated, plantar fasciitis gets worse, not better. The pain can become an all-day type of problem. This is why we recommend scheduling an appointment at the first sign of heel pain. Typically, in the early stages of heel pain, we can manage your care with minimally invasive methods. One of the first places we begin is with these APMA advised stretches.

Stretches to Reduce Heel Pain orthotics for heel pain

When your leg and calf muscles are too tight, they can tug at your plantar fascia, contributing to its painful inflammation. That’s why stretching is such an effective way to manage your heel pain. Try these four stretches, every day, at the first sign of heel pain:
1. STRAIGHT LEG CALF STRETCH Stand up, facing a wall, and put your foot behind you. Keep both feet flat as you lean towards the wall, placing both your hands against it for support. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then switch sides.

2. BENT LEG CALF STRETCH Now, place move your hands up the wall to chest height and move your feet away from the wall. Bend both knees deeply, and step one foot forward so the heel is right in front of the toes on your more painful foot. the non-affected foot forward so that your heel is in front of your affected foot’s toes. Hold and switch.

3. ROLLING ARCH STRETCH Roll your arch foot back and forth over a tennis ball or a frozen bottle of water.

4. SEATED PLANTAR FASCIA STRETCH Sit in a chair and cross one foot over the knee of your other leg. Place your fingers over the base of your toes and pull them back towards your shin until you feel a comfortable stretch in the arch.

Now, all of these stretches (adapted from the APMA) are effective. And, while you only need to do them on your affected foot, we recommend repeating on both sides of your body, to avoid developing overuse injuries in your unaffected side.

But, sometimes, simply stretching won’t be enough to resolve your heel pain. Which is when we explore other treatment options.

 Treating Plantar Fasciitis

According to APMA president Seth A. Rubenstein, “The top priority when treating plantar fasciitis is to reduce the mechanical strain on the plantar fascia with arch supports and supportive footwear.” That’s why so many of our heel pain patients benefit from a pair of custom orthotics.

Yet Dr. Rubenstein also notes, “Podiatrists are also well-trained to provide advanced, cutting-edge treatments… for more complex cases.” So, in our office, we have several advanced heel pain solutions. And the one we’re most excited about is our MLS (Musculoskeletal) Laser. We’ve seen so many heel pain patients reduce their healing time thanks to this highly effective treatment.

What is Laser Therapy? laser therapy targets inflammation

MLS laser therapy is an FDA-cleared treatment method whose efficacy has been proved in studies from numerous respected institutions, including Harvard university.

When we provide laser therapy, we target your inflammation using specific wavelengths of light that can treat painful and debilitating conditions.

The light’s energy penetrates your damaged cells, stimulating new activity. This produces two important results: reducing pain and speeding your cell’s recovery time. A typical laser therapy session lasts about 8 minutes, and you should expect to notice improvements after one to three sessions.

In addition to heel pain, we’ve seen great laser results for patients living with:

  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Injuries
  • Muscle pain
  • Pre-op and post-operative patients

One final note: just because you’ve got heel pain, it doesn’t automatically mean you’ve developed plantar fasciitis.  In fact, many conditions, like bone spurs, cause similar symptoms, but will require different treatment protocols.  So, in order to ensure the fastest relief and quickest recovery time, schedule a consultation today. In our office, we are following all CDC guidelines to keep you safe. Or, if you prefer, we can offer a Telemedicine consultation to get you started on the path to healing.