If you’ve been having on-again, off-again problems with heel pain this summer, you might be putting off a trip to the podiatrist and simply hoping the pain goes away in the fall and winter, when the weather gets cold and life slows down a bit.
There’s a certain logic to this way of thinking. After all, overuse is one possible cause of heel pain, and if you tend to be less active in the fall, that could mean gradually fading symptoms.
Unfortunately, heel pain doesn’t always work that way. While it’s possible that your symptoms may start to recede, quite often we see patients who make no improvements throughout the fall and winter seasons—or sometimes even see their heel pain get worse.
And, it’s important to remember that heel pain is never normal, regardless of the time of year. If you’re suffering, calling us for help is always a good choice.
Sources of Heel Pain in Fall and Winter
There are several possible reasons why your heel pain might not improve (or actually get worse) even as the weather cools.
- Poor footwear choices. Summer comes with its own footwear problems, like flip flops. But switching to closed-toed shoes for the season isn’t necessarily an improvement if they still fail to provide adequate arch support and cushioning, or they just don’t fit you right. A change from comfortable sandals to cramped boots isn’t an upgrade as far as your heels are concerned.
- Not wearing shoes at all. We actually first noticed this back in spring, as the pandemic kept more and more people inside and working from home all day. Most people don’t wear shoes in their own home, which means their feet aren’t getting that extra cushioning and support. If you spend a lot of time on your feet, supportive shoes or sandals should be worn regularly—even inside your own home if necessary.
- Changes in temperature or pressure. This depends, of course, on the nature of the condition that’s actually causing your heel pain. However, many painful conditions may respond negatively to a change in the seasons. Colder temperatures can reduce blood flow to the feet, which may worsen the symptoms of neuropathy or increase inflammation and stiffness associated with plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis.
- Weight gain. Lack of activity in fall and winter can often mean a few extra pounds of body weight—and depending on how the pandemic has affected your lifestyle, you might already have a bit of a head start. Due to impacts, your feet typically contend with forces that may be 2-3 times your body weight with each step, so even a relatively modest gain of 10-15 pounds can quickly add up.
Of course, the underlying causes of your heel pain could have nothing to do with seasons, weather, or fashion. For example, if you have a structural foot abnormality, such as flat feet, you’re going to be dealing with the fallout all year long. Footwear and activity choices might help you limit the discomfort, but won’t solve the underlying problem.
If Your Heels Are Hurting, the “Wait and See” Approach Isn’t Always Your Best Bet
If you’re only suffering from mild or temporary heel pain, there’s nothing wrong with attempting some simple home remedies first, then monitoring the results.
- Take a few days to rest from vigorous activities that you suspect are contributing to the pain.
- Use ice packs to deal with temporary pain and swelling.
- Make sure your shoes fit you right, are appropriate for your activities, have good cushioning and support, and aren’t yet in need of replacement.
- Take time to stretch and exercise your feet, ankles, and calves each day.
- Adjust your activities if possible so you aren’t engaging in high-impact exercise too many days in a row without adequate rest days. (On your off-days, you can pursue strength training, balance and flexibility training, or low-impact cardio like swimming or cycling.)
If following these relatively simple home treatment and prevention steps are enough to get rid of your heel pain and keep it gone, great!
However, if pain continues to be a problem, chances are you have an underlying issue that just isn’t going to get better on its own.
That’s not all bad news, though! It just means you need to take the initiative to schedule an appointment with us. More than 90 percent of heel pain cases can be solved with no more than a few months of conservative treatments; the only real trick is getting a solid, accurate diagnosis and customized treatment plan to meet your specific needs.
That’s exactly what we’re here to provide! With advanced diagnostic tools, years of training and experience, and proven treatment solutions such as custom orthotics, we can help you get to the bottom of your heel pain and fix it, so it doesn’t continue to cause problems for you throughout the fall, winter, and beyond.
To request an appointment at any of our Cincinnati-area offices in Ohio or Kentucky, just give us a call at (513) 728-4800, or connect with us online.