HARKER HEIGHTS — Many of us are welcoming the warmer weather sporting flip-flop sandals; however, their popularity among teens and young adults is responsible for a growing epidemic of heel pain in this population, according to Dr. H. Ashley Ledger, a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.
“We’re seeing more heel pain than ever in patients 15 to 25 years old, a group that usually doesn’t have this problem,” Ledger said. “A major contributor is wearing flip-flop sandals with paper-thin soles every day to school. Flip-flops have no arch support and can accentuate any abnormal biomechanics in foot motion, and this eventually brings pain and inflammation.”
Ledger recommended wearing sandals with reasonably strong soles and arch support.
“Especially for girls and young women, thicker-soled sandals with supportive arches might not be considered stylish, but if you want to wear sandals most of the time, you’ll avoid heel pain if you choose sturdier, perhaps less fashionable styles,” he said.
It is estimated that 15 percent of all adult foot complaints involve plantar fasciitis, the type of heel pain caused by chronic inflammation of the connective tissue extending from the heel bone to the toes. Being overweight and wearing inappropriate footwear are common contributing factors.
The pain is most noticeable after getting out of bed in the morning, and it tends to decrease after a few minutes and returns during the day as time on the feet increases. Not all heel pain, however, is caused by plantar fasciitis. It also can occur from inflammation of the Achilles tendon, bursitis, arthritis, gout, stress fractures, or irritation of one or more of the nerves in the region. Therefore, diagnosis by a foot and ankle surgeon to rule out other causes is advised.
Initial treatment options for heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis should include anti-inflammatory medications, padding and strapping of the foot and physical therapy. Patients also should stretch their calf muscles regularly, avoid wearing flat shoes and walking barefoot, use over-the-counter arch supports and heel cushions, and limit the frequency of extended physical activities.
Most patients with plantar fasciitis respond to nonsurgical treatment within six weeks. However, surgery is sometimes necessary to relieve severe, persistent pain.
For more information about heel pain, call Ledger at 254-519-3668 or go to FootHealthFacts.org.