How Orthotics Can Help Relieve Your Heel Pain

Feb 12, 2023

It’s not at all an exaggeration to call heel pain an epidemic in our society.

In America, it’s estimated that about 1 in 4 people will deal with at least one serious case of heel pain in their lifetime—severe enough to significantly impact the quality of life.

Do you suffer from nagging heel pain? Perhaps your troublesome heels are stopping you from pursuing your favorite hobbies? No matter how intense your foot pain is, you don’t have to suffer in silence.

So what’s the solution?

Orthotics represent one of the most effective heel pain remedies for many of our patients, including those with plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. If you’re wondering whether orthotics could benefit you, take a look at our quick guide below.

Why is There so Much Heel Pain Today?

You can pin the blame on a lot of factors, including expanding waistlines and substandard footwear. But one of the simplest explanations is simply a combination of gravity and modern surfaces.

Simply put, our feet weren’t designed to spend all day on hard, flat surfaces like concrete, asphalt, and linoleum. And over time, those forces can start to wear you down.

Specifically, the muscles and tendons that support the arch can weaken, which causes a cascade of problems. The arch drops. The ankle rolls inward. The foot and leg bones fall out of alignment with each other. And the heel is right at the center of it all, forced to absorb ever-greater impact forces with every step you take.

What Causes Heel Pain?

Heel pain can occur for several reasons, so you’ll need an evaluation from our podiatrist to secure a diagnosis. Common causes of heel pain include:

  • Plantar fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis causes pain on the bottom of the foot and tends to worsen after sleeping or resting. People with plantar fasciitis often have difficulty raising their toes off the ground. Risk factors associated with this condition include being overweight, exercising on hard surfaces, and wearing ill-fitting shoes.
  • Achilles tendinitis: Tendinitis occurs when a tendon swells after an injury, causing joint pain and stiffness. Ankle braces and custom orthotics can help reduce pain and swelling during recovery.
  • Heel fracture or ruptured tendon: Fractures and tendon ruptures can cause sharp heel pain, swelling, and walking problems. Dr. Sunshein may recommend additional treatments alongside custom orthotics to help reduce heel pain and aid movement.
  • Bursitis: Often characterized by a dull ache, bursitis happens when joints become painful and swollen. Other symptoms include redness, tenderness, and warmth in the affected area.

What are Orthotics?

Orthotics are shoe inserts designed to support the feet and relieve pain associated with many podiatric issues, from arthritis to foot deformities. Many pharmacies sell generic orthotics. While off-the-shelf options are relatively cheap, they may not provide much relief and are likely to wear out quickly.

Most podiatrists recommend custom orthotics designed to control the alignment of the wearer’s foot and provide adequate cushioning. Some orthotics are made using soft compression materials and are very comfortable to wear. Others are made using rigid materials such as plastic or carbon fiber, helping to support the wearer’s arches.

What Can Orthotics Do?

A helpful analogy here would be to think of orthotics like a pair of glasses for your feet and arches. If you have a foot that is imbalanced or unstable, the orthotics can reposition them and support them so that they function as intended.

But even that analogy doesn’t quite work, because glasses won’t improve the quality of your biological eyes. Wearing the right pair of orthotics, however, can help the muscles of the bottom of your foot heal and get stronger, so they’re better able to resist gravity and reduce pain.

(This doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily be able to stop wearing orthotics entirely, but it does help make your orthotics perform better and last longer, and reduces your overall risk of recurring heel pain.)

As mentioned, custom orthotics can address a range of conditions affecting the heel and foot structure. Specially fitted orthotics help reduce pain, improve mobility, enhance posture and balance, reduce the likelihood of falls, and prevent the need for more invasive treatments, such as surgery.

The right pair of orthotics will not only provide cushioning for the heel itself but also support the arch and keep it from collapsing. For one, that means the plantar fascia ligament isn’t going to be overstretched to the same degree (which is the cause of plantar fasciitis, the main heel pain diagnosis). And two, your feet and legs will be in better alignment with one another, and forces will be better distributed across the entire foot (and away from the heel).

Orthotics will treat heel pain by helping to reduce pressure on and around your heel while supporting the broader foot. In so doing, orthotics can aid recovery and prevent further damage to the foot. Many people wear orthotics as a preventative, long-term measure to tackle heel pain.

What Kind of Orthotics Do I Need?

At Sunshein Podiatry Associates, we offer a couple of different orthotic options to help people with their heel pain.

But first, an important word of warning: stay away from cheap inserts you can find at the grocery store or pharmacy! Although it’s tempting to think that a $15 pair of insoles are going to help you, the truth is that these cheap, flimsy devices are usually woefully inadequate to treat your heel pain—and you might not even find a pair that really fits your feet appropriately.

Instead, come down to Sunshein Podiatry Associates. As we said, we have a couple of options for you:

Prefabricated arch supports. For our patients with mild-to-moderate heel pain, we carry Powersteps arch supports, and they tend to work well for most people. They’re a lot higher quality than orthotics you can typically find off the shelf at the pharmacy or athletic store, and you’ll have a genuine foot and ankle expert there to make sure you get the proper pair.

Custom orthotics. If your heel pain and/or foot alignment problems are more severe, you may need a pair of custom-molded orthotics. Each pair is uniquely fashioned in a lab, using a mold and/or scan of your own two feet. This allows them to correct foot alignment with a much higher degree of precision, especially for foot structures that deviate a lot further from “normal.”

Custom orthotics also have the advantage of being a lot more rigid and durable than prefabs. Since they’re designed to fit perfectly, they can be made from firmer plastics while providing enough “flex” to be comfortable and allow your foot to function normally. And they can last years with proper care, unlike prefabs—which tend to give out after about six months or so.

Get the Help Your Heels Need!

Heel pain affects millions of Americans every year. Fortunately, most cases of heel pain are highly treatable.

The expert team at Sunshein Podiatry Associates has helped countless patients from throughout the Centerville and Dayton areas overcome their heel pain through treatments such as orthotics, laser therapy, and more. We understand that every patient and every case is unique, and work hard to provide personalized treatment options that are both effective and appropriate for your lifestyle.

If you’re tired of limping around and avoiding your favorite activities due to heel pain, we’re here to help. Schedule an appointment with Sunshine Podiatry by calling (937) 435-7477, or fill out our online contact form, and regain control of your life free of heel pain!


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