Most people experience heel pain with their first steps in the morning, after getting out of bed. It is presented by a sharp stabbing pain at the bottom or front of the heel bone. The pain varies in severity. In most cases, heel pain is more severe following periods of inactivity (e.g. early in the morning or after sitting for a long period). After walking around for a while the sharp pain subsides and is replaced by a dull ache.
The most common cause of heel pain and heel spurs is Plantar Fasciitis. This is Latin for inflammation of plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is the flat band of tissue under the foot that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot. Normally, the fascia is flexible and strong. However, due to factors such as abnormal stress, excessive weight, age and poor foot function painful stretching and micro-tearing of the plantar fascia tissue occurs leading to irritation and inflammation at the attachment of the plantar fascia into the calcaneus (heel bone).
During rest (e.g. when you’re asleep), the plantar fascia 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 pain with your first steps in the morning.
Continuous pulling of the fascia at the heel bone, eventually may lead to the development of bony growth on the heel. This is called a heel spur.
Over-stretching of the plantar fascia is more likely to happen if:
– you suffer from over pronation (lowering of the arches)
– you stand or walk on hard surfaces for long periods
– you do a lot of running and/or sports
– you are overweight or pregnant
– you have tight calf muscles
– you are over 50 years of age