If you’re troubled by pain or aching in your heels, it’s actually more common than you may think. In fact, it happens to nearly 10% of all people at some point in their life.
But what’s even more interesting is, statistics show that women are affected by heel pain significantly more frequently than men.
This fact brings about a range of questions that leave you in wonder. What causes heel pain in women? Why do women experience it more frequently? What exactly is going on? If you are a woman afflicted by heel pain, you’re in the right place so keep reading.
Why are women more prone to heel pain than men?
Physiologically, women and men have very similar feet — so why is heel pain so much more common in women?
Unsurprisingly, one leading cause of heel pain in women is high heels. We all know that wearing high heels can be uncomfortable, and taking them off after a long night is a huge relief. But it goes beyond temporary comfort or pain: research has found that people who regularly wear high heels have a greater plantar fascial thickness, which is a strong indicator of plantar fasciitis. So in some cases, the increased likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis has little to do with being a woman, and more to do with the shoes you wear.
Other common types of women’s footwear may also be to blame in some cases. Even without high heels, shoes that are narrow in width or with pointy toes can re-shape the foot and change the alignment, leading to issues like heel pain, bunions, and hammertoe.
So, one of the best ways women can reduce their chances of developing heel pain is to make sure that they are wearing supportive footwear with sufficient space and cushioning.
It is also incredibly common to develop heel pain during pregnancy due to rapid weight gain. While it’s completely healthy to gain weight during pregnancy, it can contribute to gait imbalances and added pressure to the heels. That’s not to say that pregnant people (or anyone who has developed heel pain after weight gain) need to lose weight in order to address the problem. Most cases of plantar fasciitis can effectively be treated at home without weight loss by using home remedies like orthotic inserts, stretching, icing, and rest.
Common causes of heel pain in women
So you’re a woman who has heel pain, and it may have developed from regular daily lifestyle factors. But “heel pain” isn’t one single condition, and treatments depend largely on which specific condition has developed.
Plantar fasciitis is a condition that affects the plantar fascia, a ligament that connects your heel and front of the foot. This ligament goes through a lot of wear and tear as you walk, stand, run, and jump. Plantar fasciitis can develop for a wide number of reasons, including regular wear and tear, sports injuries, or lifestyle factors that are common for women, like wearing high heels or pregnancy.
Haglund’s deformity is another heel pain condition that is most common in women during their middle age. Also known as retrocalcaneal exostosis or “pump bump”, it is characterized by the enlargement of the bone where the Achilles tendon meets the heel bone. High heels are a common culprit of this condition as well, which is one reason it may be more common in women than men. Unlike plantar fasciitis, which causes pain on the bottom of the heel where it meets the arch of the foot, Haglund’s deformity causes pain at the back of the heel where it meets the ankle.
Flat feet are also closely linked to heel pain in women. This condition refers to little or no arch in the bottom of the foot, which may be due to genetics or improper footwear.
Foot and ankle arthritis
Arthritis is another condition that affects women much more frequently than men. In fact, women are 3x more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, especially during middle age. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that commonly causes inflammation and pain in the joints, sometimes including the joints of the foot, ankle, and heel.
Effective ways to reduce heel pain for women
Although heel pain is incredibly common for women, most people are able to resolve it at home with a few months of simple and natural remedies.
Wear properly-fitted shoes
Ill-fitted shoes are one of the most common causes of a wide variety of heel pain conditions. Opt for heels no taller than 1.5″ inches, and make sure that there is sufficient cushioning, proper arch support, and enough flexibility in the sole of the shoe that your feet can move naturally. Wearing the correct size of shoes is important too. If your shoes are too tight it may impact your gait or alignment, which can lead to heel pain.
Adding orthotic inserts is another great way to ensure that you are getting the proper support for your feet. Opt for something that adds cushioning and helps bring your feet into proper alignment, like Heel Seats.
Stretch your feet daily
Just like the rest of your body, it is necessary to stretch your feet. Heel pain often includes a severe feeling of tightness in the arch and heel of the foot, and regular stretching can provide short-term relief as well as contribute to long-term healing.
It is especially important to stretch and warm up your feet before and after you exercise.
If at-home remedies aren’t working for you, physical therapy is a great option to address your heel pain. Physical therapists will conduct an assessment and create a custom treatment plan to help improve gait and mobility.
If you are a woman with heel pain, you are not alone! Your heel pain may be caused by footwear or lifestyle conditions, or it may be completely unavoidable and caused by genetics. Whatever the cause of your heel pain, it’s important to address it quickly and visit a medical professional if it persists.