It’s one of the most common causes of pain and discomfort in the foot – but what causes Policeman’s Heel, and how can it be treated?
First thing’s first – what is Policeman’s Heel?
Policeman’s Heel is otherwise known as plantar fasciitis. It’s the most widespread cause of pain in the heel of the foot, and it’s thought to affect up to 1 in 10 people at some point during their lifetime.
Sufferers will typically feel a stab-like pain in the sole of their foot, which is often worse first thing in the morning. The soreness and stiffness may subside over the course of the day, but can return if the person has been on their feet for some time.
Plantar fasciitis is most common in people who are between 40 and 60 years of age, and especially prevalent amongst runners. However, pretty much anyone is at risk of developing the condition if:
- They regularly place a lot of strain on their feet through standing, walking or exercise
- They are overweight
- They have flat feet, a high arch, or abnormal gait
- They wear shoes with inadequate support
What causes the condition?
Policeman’s Heel can affect one foot or both feet. It occurs when the plantar fascia – the thin ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot – becomes thick and painful.
The plantar fascia is designed to support the arch of your foot. However, if it’s placed under a lot of stress and tension, it can start to succumb to small tears, which irritate the area and lead to that all-too-familiar burning sensation.
Many people who suffer from plantar fasciitis will also have tight Achilles tendons; these are thought to contribute to, and sometimes exacerbate, the pain.
Is Policeman’s Heel related to heel spurs?
Heel spurs are bony projections that can be found on the bottom of the heel, right where the plantar fascia inserts into the heel bone.
Medical professionals used to believe that heel spurs were the cause of plantar fasciitis – but they have since found that this is not true. Those who suffer from plantar fasciitis are very likely to also have heel spurs that will show up clearly in an X-ray – but for the purpose of diagnosis, they are two separate conditions.
What can we do to treat Policeman’s Heel?
Policeman’s Heel is by no means life-threatening, but if left untreated, it can restrict your regular activities and dramatically affect your lifestyle.
Your doctor will normally be able to diagnose Policeman’s Heel after assessing your symptoms and carrying out a simple examination. He or she will manually check for areas of tenderness in your foot and will not normally suggest an X-ray or MRI scan unless they have concerns that the pain is being caused by something else (such as a stress fracture or a pinched nerve).
In the first instance, those with Policeman’s Heel can take over-the-counter painkillers to lessen their discomfort. However, this is by no means a long-term solution.
Stretching and strengthening exercises are vital to the recovery process. Physiotherapists will be able to suggest a range of movements that gently lengthen out the plantar fascia and strengthen your lower leg muscles, which over time will serve to stabilise the ankle and the heel.
Night splints may help, too, by holding the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a slightly stretched position overnight and slowly releasing the tension in the area.
In more extreme cases, your GP may suggest steroid injections, which can provide temporary pain relief. A procedure known as extracorporeal shock wave therapy has been known to achieve accelerated healing, while other people may benefit from surgery to detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone (although this treatment method is usually a last resort, as it will weaken the arch in your foot quite considerably).
But by far the most cost-effective way to treat Policeman’s Heel, aka plantar fasciitis, is to invest in custom insoles for your shoes.
Customisable insoles provide welcome relief from the symptoms of Policeman’s Heel
Insoles for plantar fasciitis have been proven time and time again to lessen the symptoms of this common condition. Fully adjustable and surprisingly affordable, these types of custom orthotics provide fast relief from Policeman’s Heel by delivering excellent cushioning to the heel and the arch of the foot. They also take the pressure off the plantar fascia, giving it space to heal.
Before resorting to more dramatic treatment methods, invest in a pair of customisable insoles and experience a noticeable reduction in your symptoms straightaway.