Asking “What are the best treatments for heel pain?” is kind of like asking “What are the best qualities to look for in an athlete?” The answers might be very different depending on what kind of athlete you’re talking about. Sure, things like speed, power, agility, and endurance are almost always relevant. But the ideal tennis player is probably going to look a lot different from the ideal basketball center—or offensive lineman!
Your best treatment options for heel pain will depend on factors like:
- What’s causing your heel pain?
- How severe is the pain?
- What daily activities would you like to be able to perform, but can’t because of your heel pain?
Once we have a diagnosis—and we understand what your short, medium, and long-term goals are—we can put together a treatment plan that incorporates the right mix of approaches to get you optimal results. That plan may incorporate some or all of the following:
- RICE Therapy. This at-home first aid approach for pain involves resting the feet (in other words, staying off of them and avoiding strenuous activities) and using ice, compression, and elevation to control swelling and discomfort.
- New shoes. Ill-fitting shoes with poor cushioning and/or support are a very common contributing factor in many forms of heel pain. You’d be surprised at how much a new pair could help!
- Custom orthotics. Orthotics are like glasses or contacts for your feet. Structural flaws, gait abnormalities, or other biomechanical inefficiencies can load up the pressure and pain on the heels. A pair of custom orthotics, designed to fit your unique foot shape, gives the extra cushioning and support your feet need to be effective.
- Physical therapy. Swollen, inflamed muscles, tendons, and ligaments often respond well to appropriate stretches and exercises. This not only helps ease pain and promote healing, but stabilizes and strengthens the tissues you need to support yourself.
- Splinting. Some forms of heel pain, particularly plantar fasciitis, benefit from night splints that keep your plantar fascia in an elongated position while you sleep. This minimizes the intense pain that may greet you with the first steps of the morning.
- Medications. Often, a simple over-the-counter painkiller does the trick. In some cases, you might benefit from something a little stronger, such as an injection of cortisone.
- Surgery. Truthfully, this is rarely considered one of the “best” treatments for heel pain. We’d always prefer to solve the problem conservatively. That said, some heel pain conditions may require it if they’ve become severe and are no longer responding to gentler forms of care.