Our heels absorb a lot of stress as we walk and run, so it should come as no surprise that they are a common location for trauma-related injury. This trauma can develop instantly in the form of direct trauma, or it can set in gradually over the years in the form of repetitive trauma. Either way, if the pain in your heel is causing you to limp or it’s affecting the way you walk, you should have it looked at by a foot specialist. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at some of the common reasons why an underlying heel condition is affecting your gait.
Heel Pain Causing Limp
For the sake of this blog, we’re going to focus on some of the more not-so-obvious reasons why you’re experiencing heel pain. Direct trauma from falls or hard contact on the ground can suggest a fracture that would require physician intervention, but the following conditions are a little less obvious, and thus can be trickier to manage.
1. Plantar Fasciitis – Plantar fasciitis is a condition in which the plantar fascia, the tight band of tissue under the arch of your foot, becomes inflamed. This inflammation can lead to severe pain and cause someone to try to avoid putting pressure on the area by limping. It can develop as a result of regular overuse, but can be exacerbated by other factors, like being overweight, being over the age of 40 or having high arches or flat feet. Trying to power through the discomfort tends to inhibit healing, so talk to a foot specialist if you believe you may be dealing with plantar fasciitis.
2. Achilles Tendonitis – Your Achilles tendon attaches to the back of your heel, and if it becomes irritated or inflamed, you may feel it in your heel. Oftentimes this condition develops as a result of overuse, like from running too much or too often, but it can also develop if you have poor fitting shoes that you spend hours in each day. Left untreated, pain can linger, and it can also put you at an increased risk for an Achilles tendon rupture.
3. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome – We talk more about tarsal tunnel syndrome in this blog, but essentially it’s a condition that involves an impingement of the large nerve at the back of your foot. If pain is housed in both the heel and the front of your foot, odds are a nerve issue is at play. Consider reaching out to a foot specialist if you’re experiencing these symptoms alongside an inhibited gait or localized numbness.
4. Fat Pad Atrophy – Most adults have a nice little fat pad under their heel to help absorb pressure with every step they take. However, over time this heel pad can thin out due to repeated or intense stress. This process can also be expedited in marathon runners or those who are overweight. The lack of natural padding can make each step more painful, leading to a noticeable limp. Treatment varies from patient to patient, and a consultation with a foot specialist can help uncover the best treatment options for you.
With all of the above problems, pain is unlikely to subside if you just try to limp your way through life, so reach out to Dr. Silverman’s office to get set up with a diagnosis and treatment plan.