Treating Morning Heel Pain

One of the most common questions when it comes to the discomfort of the feet is this:

“When I get out of bed in the morning, I’m experiencing morning foot pain. The first few steps that I take are very, very painful. This pain has been happening for the last few weeks. What could be causing this?”

Morning foot pain is one of the primary symptoms of an inflammatory condition of the foot called plantar fasciitis, and the pain is usually most acute first thing in the morning when you get out of bed. However, the discomfort may last throughout the day. If it isn’t correctly treated, symptoms can worsen, the inflammation can intensify, and the condition can become debilitating.

Although the plantar fascia runs through the arch of the foot, pain is most often felt in the heel, and heel spurs may be present as well, although they do not cause pain themselves.

20 Ways of Treating Morning Heel Pain

1. Identify the cause and contributing factors: The condition is not generally associated with an injury or trauma. But, there is almost always a slight change in activity, shoes, or job that contributes to the development.

2. Avoid aggravating activities: Any activities which place excess stress on the arch will aggravate the condition. Walking up and down stairs or hills, squatting, lifting heavy items, or walking on uneven terrain will exacerbate this condition.

3. Stop impact activities: Daily exercise is essential for weight maintenance but running, walking, the stair-master, the elliptical machine, and any impact sport will aggravate the condition. Consider swimming or cycling. Avoid steep hills, pedaling in high gear, and dropping the heel when cycling. More on decreasing activity.

4. Ice massage your arch: Place a sports water bottle in the freezer and when frozen, place it on the floor and roll your foot over the water bottle for 20 minutes 2-3 times a day. Ice helps decrease inflammation and also acts as a topical analgesic. Icing is most effective the first few weeks after the condition begins and when the heel is inflamed and tender.

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5. Roll a ball under your foot: Place a tennis ball, softball, or rolling pin on the ground and roll your arch over the ball. This will stretch the plantar fascia and should be done as often as possible throughout the day, but it should not feel painful. Check out the best foot rollers.

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6. Alternate between hot and cold: Icing decreases inflammation by causing vessel constriction. Heat will cause the vessels to dilate. Alternating between the two will attempt to create a pumping action within the small vessels in the injured area to pump the excess fluid (inflammation) back to the heart. Alternate between ice and heat, using each for 5 minutes for 30-40 minutes.

7. Stretch your calf each morning: In the morning, BEFORE you step down, stretch your calf. Wrap a band around the ball of the foot and pull the foot towards you, keeping your leg straight. Hold for 1 minute and repeat 2-3 times if possible.

8. Stretch the plantar fascia: A plantar fascia specific stretch can be performed by placing the affected foot on the unaffected knee. Grab the toes with the opposite hand and pull the toes, stretching the arch—more on the plantar fasciitis specific stretch.

9. Stretch throughout the day: Stretch the calf and the plantar fascia multiple times. Spend 1-2 two minutes each hour stretching—more on stretching for plantar fasciitis.

10. Take anti-inflammatory medications: Anti-inflammatory medications will help decrease the inflammation which results from the tearing of the plantar fascia. They can work well in the early stages of plantar fasciitis and in conjunction with other treatments.

Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Even if the anti-inflammatory medications reduce the pain, they are not a cure for the condition. An adjunct therapy is essential.

11. Lose Weight: Most people gain weight after developing plantar fasciitis because they have reduced their activity considerably. Increased body weight transmits excess force to the feet and the plantar fascia, and the more weight gained, the slower the healing process.

12. Wear supportive shoes: This is one of the most critical steps. Despite how comfortable they may feel, soft, flexible shoes will only cause more problems. Test all shoes—more on choosing shoes for plantar fasciitis.

13. Avoid walking barefoot: Don’t walk without shoes, even in the house. Find a pair of supportive shoes that you can wear while in the house.

14. Use a heel cup: Heel cups aid in shock absorption and decrease stress on the heel. They are helpful only when the heel is very tender and should be used in conjunction with other treatments listed here.

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15. Try heel lifts: When the heel is lifted, stress is decreased through the arch, decreasing force on the plantar fascia. Heel lifts can be placed in the shoe, or shoes with a 1” heel can be worn.

16. Try anti-fatigue mats: Anti-fatigue mats add shock absorption to the floor and decrease stress through the heel. The mats work well for those who work on hard surfaces or stand in one place for long periods of time. See the APMA’s list of approved anti-fatigue mats.

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17. Strengthen your foot muscles: Place a thin towel on the floor. Place the front of your foot over the base of the towel. Clinch your toes around the towel and slide the towel under your foot by gripping the towel with the toes. Another exercise is to place marbles on the floor and pick up each marble with your toes and place them in a bucket or bowl.

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18. Try foot taping. Taping the foot can support the arch, decrease stress on the plantar fascia, and prevent tearing and re-injury—more on fasciitis taping.

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19. Use a night splint: A night splint is designed to stretch the plantar fascia while you sleep. The splint holds the ankle at 90 degrees and pulls the toes back, stretching the plantar fascia. There are rigid night splints and soft night splints which can be used for a few hours in the evening or during the night while you sleep. More information on night splints.

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20. Wear orthotics: Orthotics are not soft insoles. They are semi-rigid devices that fit into the shoe and control abnormal foot motion. By controlling abnormal motion, the orthotics help to decrease stress on the plantar fascia. More on orthotics.

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Why Do you Have Morning Foot Pain

One of the most common causes of morning foot pain is the wearing of flip-flops or inexpensive shoes. Plantar fasciitis has often been referred to as ‘flip-flop disease’ since wearing shoes with inadequate arch support or heel cup is a primary cause of the development of this affliction.

Modifying your footwear is one of the first—and easiest—changes that a doctor or podiatrist will recommend. If you are devoted to your flip-flops, investing in high-quality, well-structured shoes may be your only option.

One company, Dr. Foot, makes a great line of sandals designed so that the orthoses are built right into the shoe. This is a great choice for people who want to wear both sandals and orthotic devices because these two things are generally not compatible.

Another issue with morning foot pain is that going without shoes is not recommended, so having a pair of orthotic sandals to slip into when you’re getting out of bed is a great solution because frankly, no one wants to struggle with putting on socks and lacing up shoes before they’ve even had the chance to brush their teeth.

Wearing orthotic sandals from the moment you begin your day will alleviate the amount of pressure placed on your plantar fascia and reduce your morning pain.

Related: Causes of heel Pain

Occupational Causes of Morning Foot Pain

How you go about your workday may be a significant contributor to the development of morning foot pain. The following two conditions are the primary causes of plantar fasciitis and the resulting discomfort:

• Standing for long periods, especially on hard surfaces such as cement floors; this is especially prevalent in people who work in retail. Get the best shoes for standing all day.
• A sudden increase in physical activity

If your job requires you to stand for long periods having proper arch support will help to reduce discomfort and foot pain. Wearing suitable footwear with adequate support is essential, especially as we age.

An affordable way of finding out if better arch support is sufficient enough action to reduce your morning foot pain is to try an orthotic insert. There are several different types that you can try depending on the type of shoe you are wearing:

• Regular orthotic insoles designed for most shoes
• Orthotic insoles designed to be worn with high heels
• Orthotic insoles designed to be used with work shoes or boots
• Orthotic insoles specially constructed to alleviate heel pain

Could My Desk Job be Causing Morning Foot Pain?

As surprising as it may be, standing on your feet all day is not the only occupational hazard for morning foot pain; having a sedentary lifestyle and being even slightly overweight can cause the calf muscles to become tight and inflexible.

Tight calf muscles are one of the most frequent causes of foot pronation, which then increases pressures on the bottom of the plantar fascia. It may even overstretch the fascia, leading to inflammation and excessive thickening of these tissues. If the fascia thickens too much, it can lead to diminished strength and flexibility.

Using a properly fitting orthotic device can help keep the foot in proper alignment, thus alleviating discomfort and preventing the condition from progressing.

Related: Heel pain treatment

Foot Pain Caused by Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is great for our health and well-being, but it can occasionally be the source of morning foot pain.

Repetitive motions and constant impact with the ground in sports like tennis, volleyball, and even golf and running can cause inflammation and tenderness in the feet, particularly in the heel and the arch.

Suppose your morning pain may is caused by repetition or over-use. In that case, choosing an orthotic device that is designed for your specific activity might be an excellent option for reducing your level of discomfort.

Some of the most popular orthotic devices include:

Orthotic insoles designed for plantar fasciitis
• Orthotic insoles designed for runners
Orthotic insoles designed for flat feet

Standard orthotic inserts are affordable and easy to find at most pharmacies.

What about Custom Orthotic Insoles?

You may wonder why people turn to custom orthotic insoles when standard insoles are widely available. The problem with standard insoles is that they are generically designed to fit as many people as possible and thus risk fitting no one perfectly!

Find that you are not experiencing as much pain relief as you would like after wearing standard orthotics for 15-18 days. You can try returning them and finding a chiropractor or podiatrist who can offer you custom insoles that can be heat molded to fit your feet more precisely. This is a highly cost-effective approach to getting customized foot orthotics that best fits your foot.


If your symptoms persist, make an appointment with your podiatrist.