Do’s and Don’ts of Shoes for Heel Pain
Having a pain in your heel area is not uncommon. Fortunately, there are many shoes that may help improve the condition along with some self care.
Experts say heel pain is one of the commonly reported foot complaints. The aches and the ouch of heel pain are typically reported in two spots, either behind your heel or under it. The most common reason for pain under your heel is a condition that many barkingdogshoes.com readers know well. It is called plantar fasciitis and it can make those first steps in the morning feel like walking on needles for some people who have it.
The most common reason for pain behind your heel is achilles tendinitis. That’s according to Mayo Clinic. “Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon, the band of tissue that connects calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone.” This is most common in runners or so-called weekend warriors who are playing impact sports such as tennis or basketball.
Wherever you have that pain in your heel, although it may not be serious, the pain and discomfort can interfere with your ability to do activities of daily life.
A big part of helping heel pain can be choosing the right shoes. Shoes with support in the heel area, soles that cushion your steps and avoiding shoes that are pancake flat may help the issue resolve. A few brands to consider include Vionic, Birkenstock, Naot, Taos, Dansko, Finn Comfort (these shoes are pricey and some don’t find them stylish but readers swear by them), Haflinger, and Abeo from the Walking Company. The Abeo line offers three customized footbed options.
Before you shop for shoes – tips:
Before you start shopping, here are some do’s and don’ts to find shoes that may help heel pain.
Correct Fit: First of all, you need to choose shoes that fit well. If you’re ordering online experts say you should measure both feet because our feet may actually be slightly different sizes. Buy for the size that fits your larger foot.
Do some sole searching: A shoe with a supportive sole not only protects your heels but it also helps control the range of motion required for each step, helping take care of your bones, joints and ligaments. According to drcomfort.com, try the so-called twist test on the sole of shoes you are considering. “The best way to reduce heel pain is to give your injured soft tissue some rest — and some support…Grab the back of the shoe in the heel area with one hand then grab the ball of the shoe with the other and twist. A good shoe will resist this twisting motion. Never buy a shoe that you can easily twist.”
Avoid flimsy flats: You should know that none of the shoes we recommend on barkingdogshoes.com are pancake flat. Most podiatrists recommend shoes with one to two inch heels. This bit of heel helps align your foot and protect it when compared to a super flat style. When considering stylish shoes for plantar fasciitis, a common cause of heel pain, we feel obligated to include ballet flats because they are a wardrobe staple for many women! But finding a pair with proper arch support presents a challenge. Vionic’s Ava flat has what achy heels need: a removable footbed with deep heel cup to maintain alignment, enhanced arch support and flexible but sturdy midsole. The Abeo Tabitha is another ballet flat with added arch support.
A good heel counter: You also want a shoe with supportive heel counter. That’s the area, often an insert, that reinforces the heel cup of your shoe and keep your heel and foot in the shoe. As we gals get older the natural fat pads in our feet decrease, making good, supportive shoes even more important for cushioning our heels to keep away foot pain. Naot shoes are one brand that come with a supportive heel area. This means a heel cup that sits around the bottom edge of your heel which provides the support that foot experts say is so important in shoes. Some closed heel sandal styles such as the funky Naot Begonia, the Papaki, or the Selo may be good options if you decide you still need to slip in a custom orthotic.
Support your arch: Another important area to consider is the arch support in a shoe. The arch helps support and absorb the weight of your body when you step down and spring off the ground again. That’s a big job and supporting the arch can actually reduce the risk of heel pain by protecting your plantar fascia tissue.
When considering high heels, remember that high heels can put more pull on your calf muscles and plantar fascia, which may aggravate your foot issues. You’ll notice we still sometimes we recommend higher heel styles. After all a girl’s gotta dress up! You might look for a platform style that reduces the overall height your foot is experiencing. Check out our guide to comfortable heels with arch support.
If you like wearing sneakers and need support, we are big fans of the Taos Star sneaker – similar to the popular converse styles. Taos Star runs a tad small so order accordingly.
Plantar fasciitis and heel pain
As one of the most common causes of heel pain, you’ll be pleased to know we have an extensive guide to plantar fasciitis on our website. First some Good News! Although you may have heard you can only buy rocker sole clogs (which we like by the way) we are here to tell you there are shoes, heels, sneakers and many choices that can protect your aching plantar fascia while it heals.
Here is some information on specific shoes for plantar fascitiis in our extensive guide. You’ll find ideas in our 5 on-trend options for plantar fasciitis, and five recommendations on how to find shoes specifically for ladies with painful PF. We also have reviews of various styles from Vionic, a brand known for being supportive with special insoles that readers say have helped when PF has them hobbling. Vionic also has some good information on their orthaheel technology included in their shoes, on their website.
Inserts and Orthotics
Speaking of insoles, adding your own orthotic or shoe insert may also reduce the symptoms of heel pain by helping to better align and cushion your foot. We’ve looked at options beyond the drugstore shelves. One option to consider is Tread Labs shoe inserts which come in four different arch heights. We’ve also written a guide to orthotics that offers several additional brand suggestions. There you can also find tips for getting orthotics to fit in your shoes!
A note about Rheumatoid Arthritis
Did you know RA can sometimes mimic plantar fasciitis by causing pain on the bottom of your heel? According to podiatrynetwork.com, “It is important for the treating doctor to consider Rheumatoid arthritis as a cause of heel pain.” If an RA flare up could be contributing to your heel pain, we have shoes recommendations that are specially selected for folks with RA. You can read about our founder Kirsten Borrink and her experiences with rheumatoid arthritis on our site as well.
Background on Heel Pain
Our foot has 26 bones, with the heel bone, called the calcaneus, being the largest, according to medicalnewstoday.com. The pain under or behind it can have many causes. Here are a few:
Failing to exercise properly by not wearing the right shoes, not warming up, or injury can lead to pain. For instance, an overuse injury from sports like running.
Age can be another factor. As we get older our feet naturally lose the fat pads that helps protect and cushion our steps. Being overweight can also contribute to heel pain. The extra weight puts extra impact on our feet and body as we move.
Some people are just at higher risk of plantar fasciitis and heel pain. Some of the factors include:
- Flat feet (low arches)
- High arches
- Tight achilles tendon
- Excessive pronation (rolling inward when you walk or run)
- Another contributing factor to plantar fasciitis is wearing improper shoes.
Treatment for heel pain
You can often treat a case of heel pain at home with some self care and supportive shoes. Some of the home care options include:
Rest – avoid standing for long periods, take break from running and walk in good shoes.
Ice – An ice pack under your foot and sometimes even rolling a frozen bottle of water under your foot may help.
Heel inserts – adding support to your shoes may cushion that area.
Medication – Your doctor may suggest anti-inflammatory pain medications such as ibuprofen
Stretching – a number of website offer helpful stretches that may help with heel pain, or its common cause, plantar fasciitis. Some experts believe having calf muscles that are too tight may contribute to the problem.
Many cases of heel pain will resolve on their own with self care and home treatment. But experts say if the pain last more than a few weeks or if you heel hurts when you are not walking on it, you should see a doctor. Your physician may perform an exam or tests to rule out stress fracture, heel spurs (see below), a tendon issue or even a cyst. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe physical therapy, cortisone injections, or the use of orthotics.
Could it be a heel spur?
Heel spurs are another issue that occasionally leads to heel pain. According to webMD, “A heel spur is a calcium deposit causing a bony protrusion on the underside of the heel bone. On an X-ray, a heel spur can extend forward by as much as a half-inch.” These calcium deposits build up on the bottom of your heel over time. Experts say heel spurs can develop in people with plantar fasciitis, as they develop tiny tears of the tissue under the bone. In addition, athletes in running and jumping impact sports can develop the tiny hooks under their feet. But it turns out heel spurs are often not the cause of heel pain. According to the Cleveland Clinic, only 50 percent of people who have heel spurs actually feel any pain because of it. “A heel spur can be an incidental finding on an x-ray. You can have one even if you don’t have heel pain,” their physician said. “When we’re treating people, we don’t focus on the spur because often the spur doesn’t have to go away for the pain to resolve.”
If your heel spurs are causing heel pain, experts say the treatment options may be similar to heel pain.
Webmd reports treatment for heel spurs may include specific exercise, orthotics or shoe inserts. Your doctor may also recommend anti-inflammatory medications or a cortisone shot. In rare cases surgery may be necessary for a heel spur.
Let us know if you’ve found shoes that have helped with heel pain or have questions.
Mayo Clinic – heel pain information page
Mayo Clinic – achilles tendinitis page
Vionic shoes – heel pain info
Orthofeet – shoes for heel pain
drcomfort.com – heel pain info
medicalnewstoday.com – article on the foot
webMD.com – heel spurs information
podiatrynetwork.com – info on how RA can mimic PF