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When Your Heel Pain Is More Than Your High Heels

Chances are you’ll experience some sort of pain in your heel at some point in your life–and if you’re a man, then it isn’t caused by high heels (okay, never say never, but less likely anyway). Even if you’re a woman who does wear high heels, then you should periodically stop to ask yourself whether or not the shoe is causing the pain. There could be an underlying problem, but you’ll never know if you don’t stop to check once in awhile. So what causes heel pain? It turns out a whole lot of things. Here are a few of the most likely causes of your painful symptoms.

You’ve almost certainly heard of the Achilles tendon because it’s the largest in the body–and was an important plot point in an ancient epic tale of war and love. You might not know that the Achilles tendon is actually connected to your heel bone, and it can become easily inflamed if you’re an athlete. Then again, if you’re an avid runner, you’re just as at risk. Tendonitis is caused by repetitive activity, and Achilles tendonitis is best avoided. It can be an extremely painful condition, especially when it can so easily become worse due to its position in your foot.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that can affect the joints in certain parts of your body–like your hands or feet. It is chronic, and it slowly progresses to the point where it can cause not only pain but also permanent damage. If left to get worse, it can render the subject immobile. It’s not necessarily easily diagnosed because the symptoms are so similar to a variety of other ailments, but a dead giveaway is when you feel the pain on both hands or both feet. It presents with that kind of symmetry.

If you have poor posture or walk abnormally, you might develop painful bony spurs on your heel bone. The condition can strain and weaken the muscles in your feet, and it may lead to chronic inflammation if left untreated. Even worse than that, the spur won’t stop growing until you correct what caused it in the first place.

If you’re a runner, then you probably know what a stress fracture is. Although they most often present in the shins, sometimes the heels can be affected by continuous activity. If you run or exercise in a way that leads to a routine heel-strike, then you might find yourself with weakened bone structure that can lead to more serious fractures. Try to avoid harder surfaces if you experience prolonged pain due to a stress fracture, and be wary of damage to the tendons and ligaments surrounding the heel. All can be affected if you don’t let the fracture heal.

As with any long-term pain or ailment, you should seek diagnosis by a medical professional as soon as possible when symptoms persist. In the case that the underlying cause requires more specialized treatment, your doctor will routinely refer you to a podiatrist, who will almost certainly be able to take care of your pain and any underlying problems associated with it. While you seek treatment, don’t forget to take pressure off your heel! Get plenty of rest, and don’t forget to sit once in awhile.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.

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