Foot and Heel Injuries: An overview
Due to the large amount of time you spend standing, the stress you place on your lower body when you run or play sports, and increasing obesity concerns, foot and heel injuries are very common. Ligaments, muscles, and tendons in the ankle, heel, toes, and leg are frequently getting injured. The first important concept to understand are the different types of potential foot and heel injuries, and the second concept to understand is how to treat them. We’ll tackle both here.
Types of Foot, Heel, and Ankle Injuries
There are many, but a primer to foot and heel injuries would have to include:
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia ligament, which runs along the bottom of the foot, develops tears and becomes inflamed. This is one of the most common types of foot pain and usually manifests as an aching pain that will change the way you walk and overall participate in different activities, limiting your lifestyle.
Heel spurs are abnormal growths of the heel bone. Calcium deposits form when the plantar fascia pulls away from the heel area. The bony protrusion that develops is a heel spur. This causes you to change the way you walk to prevent discomfort and that, in turn, can lead to a pinching of the tibial nerve. The good news is that 90% of heel spur sufferers can recover without surgery.
Achilles tendonitis is similar to plantar fasciitis and results from tears to the Achilles tendon, located along the back of the heel.
Severs disease, which is more scientifically known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a common form of pain in children from about 9-15. It can lead to a gait change — the way your foot hits the ground when you walk or run — in more physically-active children.
Metatarsalgia occurs in the metatarsal, or ball of the foot area. It comes from added pressure on the forefoot, which typically occurs in women as the result of high-heeled shoes.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome:
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is when the tibial nerve — an area in the base of the ankle — gets pinched or constricted, creating inflammation and soreness. It’s similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, which happens in the wrist.
Causes of Foot, Heel, and Ankle Injuries
Causes of the above heel pain and foot pain conditions can vary, but typically these are some of the major ones:
Ill-fitting, unsupportive shoes are one of the biggest causes of foot pain. This has actually become a bigger problem with the rise of online shopping, as people frequently order shoes without trying them out in a store — and then decide to run/walk/exercise in them because they’re good enough. Your shoes are a very important investment. If you have plantar fasciitis or a similar foot/heel pain condition, you might want to consider specialized shoes.
This is a double-edged sword. If you’re very athletic and exercise often, that’s great in terms of overall health — but you will be putting a lot of stress on your feet, heels, and ankles. Eventually, that’s going to lead to some tears, inflammation, swelling, and overall foot pain. The flip side of the issue is the growing problem of obesity. This would imply less movement and exercise but more girth and body weight, and that also puts pressure on the heels, ankles, and feet — but in entirely different ways. Neither side of the exercise equation is perfect. You should work with health professionals and physical trainers to find the level of exertion that’s best for your current body type.
How to Cope With Foot, Heel, and Ankle Injuries
Coping and dealing with foot pain, ankle pain, heel pain, leg pain, arthritis, plantar fasciitis and other issues is commonplace for many. The best approach is a combined one where you focus on:
- Overall health
- Recommendations from professionals (both doctors and physical trainers)
- Informing yourself about the different types and causes
- Investment in good shoes
- Consideration of specialty products for foot pain and heel pain
At HTP, we can help guide you in all these ways. If you have additional questions about anything, don’t hesitate to contact us.