By Harry A. Bade, III, MD, FACS
One of the more disabling injuries that athletes have always encountered is heel pain. Heel pain is commonly secondary to a stretch injury to a band of thick fibrous tissue located at the instep of the foot. This band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, is connected to the heel bone, which becomes inflamed by the tugging and pulling that occurs during the sporting activity. Chronic inflammation of this band of tissue can even result in the formation of a heel spur, which is confirmed by an X-ray.
Patients with heel pain typically complain of pain that starts at the heel and radiates to the instep of the foot. The pain becomes worse with running and jumping activities, and it resolves with the cessation of the activity.
Specific treatment for inflammation and pain of the heel that radiated to the instep of the foot should include rest until the athlete can walk or run without discomfort, anti-inflammatory medicines as needed, an icing program to the areas of pain and inflammation, and a stretching program geared to relieve tension in the instep region and surrounding soft tissues. A heel cushion can also help and can be easily inserted into an athletic shoe.