set someone back on their heels

set (one) back on (one's) feet

1. Literally, to help one to stand upright after being on the ground. We rushed over to Tom and set him back on his feet before the bouncer noticed that he was too drunk to stand upright.
2. To restore one to a stable position after a downturn or misfortune. The program aims to set convicts back on their feet after they are released from prison. The investment from Charles' father helped set us back on our feet after losing so much of our business during the recession.
See also: back, feet, on, set

set (one) back on (one's) heels

To put one into a state of surprise, unease, or bemusement, especially such that it affects their ability to perform or function. The sudden arrest of one of our teammates last night certainly set us back on our heels, and we weren't able to play to the best of our abilities this morning. The tragedy set the entire community back on their heels.
See also: back, heel, on, set

set (or rock) someone back on their heels

astonish or discomfit someone.
See also: back, heel, on, set, someone