One Step at a Time Solves Heel Pain
Heel pain makes up 15 percent of all foot-related problems. The most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. This is an overuse injury with pain and swelling of the soft tissues on the bottom (sole) of the foot.

The fascia is a tough covering of tissue around the muscles. The fascia is very thick and strong in the sole of the foot. This helps support the weight of the body on the small undersurface of the feet. There are many possible causes of plantar fasciitis. A high arch or flat arch changes the amount of pressure on the fascia. Excess body weight, loss of the fat pad in the foot, or a sudden increase in activity can also cause problems.

The symptoms of plantar fasciitis include heel pain when first getting up in the morning. Pain may also occur after standing on hard surfaces, when rising up on tiptoes, or when climbing stairs. Pressing on the inside of the heel causes tenderness for patients with plantar fasciitis.

There are many treatments for plantar fasciitis. These include taping, medications, shoe inserts (orthotics), stretching, ice or heat, and night splints. No one knows if one method works alone or if several methods must be used. One group of physical therapists looked at the effects of foot orthotics on pain and function for people with plantar fasciitis.

Foot orthotics are made of materials that can be molded to support the foot. Orthotics can be rigid, semirigid, or soft, depending on the stiffness of the materials used to make them. Orthotics fit inside the shoe under the foot.

A group of 15 adults (men and women) with plantar fasciitis used semirigid orthotics. All of the patients had been in pain for a long time and had tried many other treatments. With semirigid orthotics, these patients had pain relief within two weeks. These results suggest that semirigid orthotics can be used alone to provide quick relief from persistent heel pain.
Michael T. Gross, PT, PhD, et al. The Impact of Custom Semirigid Foot Orthotics on Pain and Disability for Individuals With Plantar Fasciitis. In Journal of Orthopedic Sports & Physical Therapy. April 2002. Vol. 32. No. 4. Pp. 149-157.