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Heel Pain in the Elderly: Causes and Remedies

Posted by:

Johannes Sauer

Published at: June 17, 2024

Table of Contents
  1. What is Heel Pain in the Elderly?

  2. Causes of Heel Pain

    1. Stress Fracture

    2. Peripheral Neuropathy

    3. Plantar Fasciitis

    4. Heel Spurs

    5. Numbness

  3. How to Lessen Heel Pain in the Elderly

Pain in your heels can make it difficult to sit, stand or walk comfortably. If you or your elderly loved one is experiencing heel pain, the first step toward feeling better is to find out what is causing it.

Let’s explore common causes of heel pain in the elderly, as well as steps for decreasing your heel pain and improving your quality of life.

What is Heel Pain in the Elderly?

Heel pain in the elderly is not a diagnosis; it is a symptom, referring to pain felt in the heel of either or both feet. As heel pain in older adults can have multiple causes, you will need to investigate to discover the origin of your discomfort. 

The characteristics of the pain may vary; it could feel like bruising, stinging, stabbing or burning. It may fluctuate or be unremitting. Some heel pain may be mild, while other patients could experience moderate or severe heel pain. 

Not only can heel pain simply be unpleasant to live with, but it may also make it hard to walk properly, resulting in more frequent falls.

Causes of Heel Pain

To help you determine what might be causing your heel pain, let’s go over some common causes of this type of pain in elderly patients.

Stress Fracture

Sometimes, small breaks can form in the bone of your heel, which is referred to as the “calcaneus.” These stress fractures are the result of repetitive stress over a prolonged period. 

As you get older, you are increasingly susceptible to weakening of the bones, with osteoporosis affecting around 10 million people over the age of 50 in the US alone. 

That means that older adults may also be more prone to bone fractures. Other factors that can increase your risk include being a runner, or abruptly increasing how active you are. 

The pain from a heel bone stress fracture will be localized to the area of the break, and feel worse with stretching of the foot or prolonged standing. Your foot may be swollen, flushed, bruised, or warm.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage in your peripheral nerves that causes pain in your extremities. That can include your feet. Cleveland Clinic reports that the condition is more prevalent among people age 45 and up. 

Older adults with this foot problem may experience symptoms like burning, tingling, numbness, reduced temperature sensations, cramping and heightened sensitivity to stimuli.

Plantar Fasciitis

This foot condition is among the most common reasons for experiencing heel pain. It refers to inflammation of the plantar fascia. If you have this type of inflammation, you will notice that the pain begins around the heel, and is often mild at the start of a day. It then worsens as you go about your activities.

Heel Spurs

If your foot ligaments are under stress, sometimes a bony growth can occur that is referred to as a heel spur. It can actually be a complication of plantar fasciitis. Gait disorders can also lead to the formation of these painful spurs.

Numbness

If you have numbness in your feet, from peripheral neuropathy, for example, you could theoretically step on something sharp and not notice at first. Later, however, if the numbness reduces or stops, you might feel pain from your injury. You should examine your feet regularly if you have numbness to make sure that your heels are undamaged.

How to Lessen Heel Pain in the Elderly

Comfortable, supportive shoes for seniors are helpful both for preventing heel pain, and for coping with it if you have already developed it.

Look for features such as:

  • A wide base for stability.
  • Sufficient depth for inserting insoles.
  • Lightweight materials to prevent fatigue.
  • Adjustable fit.
  • Easy to slip on and off. 
  • Excellent traction.

Cadense Original Adaptive Shoes for men and women feature patented variable friction technology that helps older adults to walk on uneven surfaces smoothly and naturally, even if it is hard for them to lift their feet.

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FAQ

Is heel pain in the elderly always due to aging?

While aging can make you more susceptible to heel pain, no, not every case of heel pain in an older adult is the result of aging. Conditions that affect the young can also affect the old.

How long does it take older adults to recover from heel pain?

How long it takes to recover from heel pain as an older adult depends on the cause of your heel pain and the steps you are taking to treat it. Some causes of heel pain may be reversible, while other heel pain may be permanent. Even in the case of permanent heel pain, however, you can work with your doctor to come up with strategies to effectively manage it.

Can heel pain in seniors be prevented?

Yes, many types of heel pain in seniors can be prevented. Some things that may help include increasing activity levels gradually, wearing comfortable, supportive footwear, maintaining a natural gait, resting when needed, and treating conditions that could affect your feet early. 

For example, treating diabetes early or preventing it may help reduce your chances of developing peripheral neuropathy.

What are the treatment options for heel pain in adults?

Treatment options can range broadly depending on the condition you have. Treatments might include medications, lifestyle changes, and sometimes surgeries or other interventions. You can also try leg strengthening exercises.

Posted by: Johannes Sauer

Johannes is the CEO and Co-Founder of Cadense and passionate about helping people with walking difficulties. Johannes is the CEO and Co-Founder of Cadense and passionate about helping people with walking difficulties. He was immediately drawn to the mission of the company because his cousin lost his lower leg in a tragic motorcycle accident a few years ago and is experiencing walking difficulties ever since. Johannes brings over a decade of experience in working for consumer product companies to Cadense. He holds an MBA from the University of Graz in Austria. Johannes lives with his family in Santa Barbara, CA.

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