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How do I Treat a Sore Heel?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are many different treatment options for a sore heel, but it's a good idea to understand the cause of the heel pain so that it can be prevented or at least minimized. Repetition of stressful movements on the feet as well as standing for long periods of time in unsupportive shoes can cause different conditions that may lead to soreness. Resting, icing, stretching, and wearing supportive footwear are commons ways in which you can treat or prevent a heel problems.

Alternating between wearing high heeled shoes and flats can stress the tendons in the feet and cause sore heels that may also become swollen. Applying ice packs to the heels and wearing padded insoles may help. Maintaining a healthy body weight can help prevent heel pain, since the more extra weight the body has to carry around, the more pressure is placed on the heels. People with high arches or flat feet are especially susceptible to heel problems.

Tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendons. The Achilles tendon joins the feet with the lower leg bones. Achilles heel is a common tendinitis sports injury for runners and dancers because flexing the feet and landing hard on them can place extreme impact on the heels. The pain of this condition may be prevented or reduced by gently stretching the feet before exercising.

Proper shoes are essential in preventing and treating heel pain. Good quality shoes should be worn for the activity for which they're designed. For example, a walking shoe isn't going to give a runner the needed amount of shock absorption to sufficiently protect the heels. Orthotics are specially designed shoes made to cushion and support the feet.

An orthotic shoe with a heel cup included can help keep heels in place so they don't move around in shoes and cause painful callouses. A callous is a layer of hard skin, and it may crack or fissure, and this can be painful. Massaging the heel with moisturizing lotion may help soothe and soften the calloused skin.

A sore heel may be caused by plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia ligament connects the heel with the toes on the underside of the foot, and plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of this area. Stretching the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes such as by rolling it on a ball or soda can may help relieve pain. Avoiding repetitive impact to the feet, especially without wearing padded footwear, can help prevent the condition.

Going barefoot can aggravate plantar fasciitis. Supportive footwear should be worn outdoors, while padded slippers may be an indoor option. Even walking short distances in hard soles or bare feet can create a heel pain in cases of plantar fasciitis. It's a good idea to gently massage and stretch the affected foot before getting out of bed in the morning so as not to “shock” the foot by standing up suddenly.

A heel spur is one of the most common heel problems; it may occur in cases of plantar fasciitis or on its own. This is an excess of bone growth on the heel bone. If treatments such as resting, icing, and stretching don't relieve a sore heel, it would probably be a good idea to see a medical professional. You may need to be X-rayed to check for a heel spur. Treatment for heels spurs is typically similar to that for plantar fasciitis.

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Discussion Comments

By GrumpyGuppy — On Jul 27, 2010

@medicchristy: I understand what you mean with the flip flops. I love them too. You really need to get a good pair of walking shoes. You can also buy inserts to put in your shoes.

You might have to give up the flip flops for a little while.

If the pain doesn't go away, you should see your doctor to rule out a bone spur. Sore heel pain can sometimes be those spurs and they are very painful.

By medicchristy — On Jul 27, 2010

During the summer I love to go around in flip flops. I have all kinds and colors. Since I have worn them for so long, my heels are hurting really bad. I guess it's because the flip flops provide no support.

Any suggestions on how to ease the pain?

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