Heel Pain

On Sunday, Oct. 13, roughly 40,000 runners will lace their athletic shoes and cross the start line as the sold-out Bank of America Chicago Marathon gets underway. (Remember to avoid driving into downtown that morning!)

Thousands of spectators are expected to watch as runners pass through Chicago's neighborhoods – the Loop, Boystown, Pilsen, Chinatown, Old Town and more – as the masses make their way toward the finish line in Grant Park.

The race is sure to leave many runners with feelings of pride and accomplishment – and likely, plenty of sore muscles and feet. One common foot pain issue Dr. Diana Emini and Dr. Michelle Kim see among runners and others at DM Foot and Ankle Associates is plantar fasciitis – commonly known as heel pain.

For more than 2 million folks – runners to everyday Joes – the first steps in the morning can result in shooting pain in the heel or arch.

The plantar fascia – a band on the bottom of the foot – connects the heel bone to the toes. It works like a rubber band to support the arch. When this band gets irritated, pain under the heel can result.  A heel spur may or may not be present and is not the cause of your foot pain, but it definitely can contribute.

There are several causes of the condition. Among them:

·         Activity overload: Too much physical activity can stress the heel bone and surrounding tissue, especially with prolonged activity on hard surfaces.

·         Improper shoes: Footwear with think soles doesn't properly absorb shock. Force goes into the foot as a result.

·         Sports with quick turns: Cutting movements in activities such as tennis and basketball can place increased stress on the heel and surrounding tissue.

·         Pregnancy: Hormones released during pregnancy relax the ligaments, which reduces support in the feel.

·         Age: The plantar fascia loses elasticity as people age and can't always bounce back.

·         Being overweight. Extra pounds cause breakdown of the heel padding and flattening of the arch.

Fortunately, there are many treatment options available.

·         Medication to reduce inflammation

·         Custom arch supports and supportive shoes

·         Nigh splints that hold the band in a fixed position

·         Cortisone injections

·         Physical therapy

·         Shockwave therapy

The majority of patients can get back on their feet with DM Foot and Ankle's personalized treatment plan WITHOUT surgery.  Early treatment can help you get back to walking, shopping, or whatever activities make you happy much sooner. You should never live with foot pain – choose to be pain free.

By Diana Emini

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