The flowers have bloomed, kids are out of school, temperatures are still rising, and you likely have already traded socks and shoes for open-toed sandals and flip-flops. And if you like to stay active, you probably are gearing up for those outdoor summer activities, too.
But what if heel pain is keeping you from enjoying the summer fun?
The truth is during this time of year – when Arizona temperatures get right up there in the triple digits – heel pain becomes even more common, especially among those of you who partake in physical activities on a regular basis.
This type of discomfort is often caused by plantar fasciitis – an inflammation of the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot connecting the heel to the toes. This condition is one of the most common causes of heel pain, and for a few reasons (some of which we will discuss later in this blog) plantar fasciitis and warm weather go hand-in-hand.
The good news, however, is the Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona are here to help you prevent heel pain from keeping you hostage during this season – whether caused by plantar fasciitis or any other condition that causes heel pain.
But why is heel pain so common in the summer? Let’s discuss on the topic a little further.
What Does Summer Have to Do With Heel Pain?
Summertime can add to heel pain symptoms in many ways. Some of the most obvious contributing factors include:
- Increased activity. Most of us are more active in the summer—especially with the kids back at home!—and that repetitive activity can put stress on your heels, leading to heel pain.
- Choices in footwear. Often, we trade our shoes for flip-flops and sandals in the summertime, and these types of footwear provide much less support, which can put more strain on your muscles and tendons.
Of course, there are other contributing factors to painful heel conditions that you should keep in mind for the remainder of the year when temperatures are not scolding hot. These include:
- Types of sports activities in which you regularly participate. If you are a runner or engage in activities that involve a lot of jumping, your heels will endure a lot of stress and impact.
- Your weight. If you are overweight, then this means more stress and strain on your heels, which can lead to inflammation and even small tears in the plantar fascia.
- Your job and hobbies. A job or hobby that requires a considerable amount of standing can irritate the ligament and lead to heel pain.
- Your age. The risk of developing heel pain actually increases in those over the age of 40!
- Wearing high heels. Those fashionable shoes can irritate the plantar fascia and also put a lot of unnecessary pressure on the forefoot.
Now, you may be wondering how you can treat and prevent heel pain – and we will get to that here shortly. But first, it’s important that you become familiar with some of the most likely culprits for this more-than-inconvenient problem.
What is Causing Your Heel Pain?
The reality is our feet endure a lot of impact force and pressure with each and every step we take. In addition to supporting our body weight when standing – which is something that can be taxing in and of itself – walking and running increase the amount of physical forces placed on the lower limbs.
In fact, our heels can receive forces up to four times our body weight when jogging, running or jumping – and that’s a lot!
So it really should come as no surprise that heel pain is so common. And when you combine high-impact physical activities with poor footwear (like flip-flops) you can almost certainly expect to deal with this annoying condition at some point in your life.
Some of conditions that cause heel pain include:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendinitis
- Bone fractures
- Heel spurs
- Sever’s disease
- … and more.
Regardless of which one of these conditions are threatening to ruin your summer fun, one thing is always true: You should never ignore painful heel symptoms. Doing so will only make the problem worse, and what was once an issue that could have been fixed with conservative treatment may become severe enough to need surgery.
If your heels hurt, come visit our office right away so we can not only relieve your existing symptoms, but also help prevent long-term issues in the future.
How Can You Treat and Prevent Summer Heel Pain?
While you are busy planning your vacation or what shoes to wear to your friend’s cookout party, there is one more thing you should take into consideration – how to prevent heel pain. Here some tips to keep in mind:
- Wear the right shoes. Look for shoes that support your arch and cushion your heels. Avoid those that pinch, rub or irritate your heels or toes.
- Avoid wearing flip-flops. They don’t support your feet properly, and clenching your toes to keep them on can cause other issues in your feet.
- Use braces and/or splints. They can be worn at night to hold the fascia in a gentle stretch to reduce morning pain.
- Wear compression foot sleeves. These will help relieve pain by compressing and gently supporting the structure of your foot.
- Do some stretching. Keeping ligaments, tendons and muscles in your calves flexible and relaxed can head off the discomfort.
- Ice the area in pain. You can roll a frozen bottle of water under your foot, if that works best for you. Never apply ice directly to the skin – use a thin towel to protect your skin.
- Take OTC medication. Over the counter anti-inflammatory and pain medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin can help relieve your symptoms.
- Watch your weight. Your feet suffer from the extra stress excessive weight can put on them.
- Give your feet some time to recover. Your feet need periods of rest between activities to repair the damage caused by the extra stress on them from sports and other physical activities.
- Consider wearing orthotics. Custom orthotics can provide the exact support and cushioning your feet need.
These tips to avoid heel pain can make the difference between sailing through summer without problems or experiencing heel pain that keeps you from enjoying your favorite pastimes.
However, if the worst happens and your heels do start to give you grief, don’t wait! The quicker you get appropriate treatment, the better your chances for optimal recovery. So call our office at (480) 963-9000 to schedule an appointment, or take advantage of our request form online to have one of our staff members reach out to you.