Heel pain is the most common foot complaint in the UK. It is the largest bone in your foot and localised pain in this area can feel more intense than in other areas of the foot. Thousands of people throughout the UK experience the sharp, stabbing pain in the heel, usually first thing in the morning or after long periods of inactivity.
The heel is the part of the body that endures the impact of walking or physical activity. For all other body parts, walking might be a form of “low-impact” exercise but the heel still has to absorb the impact of your body weight as your feet carry you.
What Causes Heel Pain?
Heel pain can be experienced on the underside of the heel and the arch of the foot. This kind of heel pain is actually called Plantar Fasciitis and is manageable with orthotics or supportive shoe inserts. Plantar Fasciitis is the most common kind of heel pain and cause of heel spurs. The plantar fascia is the band of fibrous tissue which connects the heel bone to the toe bones. Its function is to support the arch of your foot. A normal fascia tendon is strong and flexible but abnormal stress, excessive weight, age and poor foot function can cause micro-tears which will lead to irritation and inflammation at the attachment of the plantar fascia into the calcaneus (heel bone).
During rest (e.g. when you're asleep or long periods of inactivity), this muscle tightens and shortens.
When body weight is rapidly applied to the foot, the fascia must stretch and quickly lengthen, causing micro-tears in the fascia. Hence, the stabbing heel pain with your first steps in the morning. After a little bit of walking the stabbing heel pain usually subsides.
A more temporary cause for heel pain is a sprain or strain as a result of physical activity. Plantar Fasciitis is a kind of sprain (as it overstretches the tissue that runs from the heel to the toe bones), but sport-related sprains are often more temporary. You can experience this temporary heel pain as a result of carrying something heavy, slipping and falling or a prolonged time in a non-optimal position.