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Learn about your heel pain, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your heel pain from our A.I. Symptom Checker. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Your Heel Pain May Also be Known as:
Aches and pains in heel
He hurt his heel
Heal pain
Heel ache
Heel discomfort
Heel hurts
Heel is painful
Heel soreness
Hurt her heel

Heel Pain Symptoms

Heel pain is an uncomfortable condition that can often interfere with daily activities such as walking and exercise.

Symptoms of heel pain can differ in regard to timing of the day, severity, and persistence.

You may feel symptoms such as:

  • Tenderness at the back of the heel
  • Pain localized to the bottom of the foot that comes and goes
  • Pain in the heel or middle of foot that worsens with prolonged periods of standing
  • Pain in the back of the heel that worsens with activity or exercise

Once you notice heel pain symptoms, make an appointment with your physician promptly in order to get appropriate treatment and care.

Heel Pain Causes Overview

The heel may seem like a simple body part, but it actually has many different components.

  • Calcaneus: The heel bone is the largest bone of the foot and supports a significant amount of the body.
  • Achilles tendon: A tendon is a band of connective tissue that connects muscle to bone. The Achilles tendon is one of the thickest tendons in the body and connects the calf muscle to the heel bone.
  • Plantar fascia: This is also a strong band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot and connects the heel bone to the bones of your toes.
  • Bursa: A bursa is a sac or pouch of fluid that lines bones and joints. It reduces friction and allows the bones to move easily against each other. The heel has a bursa between the Achilles tendon and the calcaneus.
  • Skin: The external layer of the heel is the thick skin surrounding and protecting the heel. Over time it thickens with pressure and use, especially in people who often go barefoot.

Inflammatory causes:

Inflammation is often a principal cause of heel pain symptoms. Inflammation is the result of repetitive stress or use. Since the heel and foot are used on such a daily basis, they are easily susceptible to inflammatory heel pain causes.

  • Connective tissue: Inflammation to the plantar fascia (also known as plantar fasciitis) can result in stabbing pain that is worst in the morning after the first few steps of the day. The heel pain usually improves throughout the day but can be triggered after long periods of inactivity such as sitting or standing. See this image for a good visual representation of the plantar fascia. Inflammation of the Achilles tendon often begins as a dull pain in the back of the heel that is most noticeable after running or other sports activities. This condition is called Achilles tendonitis.
  • Bursa: Inflammation of the bursa (bursitis) often begins in the middle, under the foot and worsens if you bend your foot up or down.

Structural causes:

Problems or deformities of the bones of the heel itself can result in chronic heel pain that may affect the way you walk.

  • Spurs: Heel spurs are actually deposits of calcium that can often look like bony growths coming from the heel. They often appear in the area where the plantar fascia attaches to the calcaneus. They develop over time and are caused by muscle and ligament strain due to repetitive stress from walking, running or jumping. See this image for a visual representation.
  • Bumps: Bursitis and chronic inflammation can result in abnormal bony growths at the back of the heel called posterior calcaneal exostosis. It is common in women and often the result of pressure from shoes that do not fit properly.

Top 7 Heel Pain Causes

  1. 1.Plantar Fasciitis

    Plantar fasciitis is a condition where the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed. This is a common problem in runners, people who are overweight, and those who wear shoes with inadequate support. When the thick band of tissue (fascia) becomes inflamed, it can cause heel pain.

    You can safely treat this condition on your own with over-the-counter pain killers (Advil, Motrin), as well as shoe inserts (orthotics) to help distribute pressure to the feet more evenly. If pain does not begin to subside, seek consultation with a physical therapist.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in the sole of the foot, pain in one foot, sharp, stabbing foot pain, severe foot pain, heel pain
    Symptoms that always occur with plantar fasciitis:
    pain in the sole of the foot, sharp, stabbing foot pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Sever Disease

    Sever's Disease is inflammation of the heel in children due to overuse (typically due to sports). It's caused by the long bones growing faster than the muscles/tendons, creating tension in the Achilles tendon.

    You can safely treat this condition on your own. It typically goes away with rest from activity for a bit with a gradual increase back to the previous level. Ice, heal lifts, stretching, and physical therapy are all effective. NSAIDs (Ibuprofen) also works.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    heel pain, pain in both feet, spontaneous ankle pain, difficulty moving the ankle
    Symptoms that always occur with sever disease:
    heel pain
    Symptoms that never occur with sever disease:
    cut on the foot
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Psoriatic Arthritis

    Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. Some people who have psoriasis also get a form of arthritis (inflammation and swelling of joints) called psoriatic arthritis.

    You should visit your primary care physician to manage this disease as there are many treatment options. A treatment plan will often consist of therapy (physical, occupational, massage), patient education, exercise and rest, devices to protect joints, medicine and/or surgery.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    joint pain, lower back pain, shoulder pain, upper back pain, joint stiffness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  4. 4.Posterior Tibialis Tendinopathy

    Posterior Tibialis Tendinopathy is the dysfunction of a tendon (muscles to bones) in the back of the foot, which can lead to having flat feet. It's unclear why exactly it happens, but might be related to poor blood flow and mechanical issues specific to the person.

    You should visit your primary care physician, who can diagnose this condition by clinical interview and exam. Treatment is conservative and involves a cast, over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen, and orthotic footwear. Surgery is a last resort.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one foot, swollen foot, limping, pain in one ankle, heel pain
    Symptoms that never occur with posterior tibialis tendinopathy:
    recent cutting accident
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

    The tarsal tunnel is a narrow space that lies on the inside of the ankle next to the ankle bones. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a compression, or squeezing, on an important nerve called the posterior tibial nerve. This compression produces symptoms anywhere along the path of the nerve running from the inside of the ankle into the foot.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate your care with a muscle and bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon). Tarsal tunnel syndrome is treated with pain medication, corticosteroid injections, stretching, icing, physical therapy, and also special orthotic inserts for shoes.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous foot pain, pain in one foot, heel pain, pain in the top of the foot, tingling foot
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Charcot Arthropathy of the Foot

    Charcot Arthropathy of the foot is a syndrome where patients with numbness of their feet, which can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions such as diabetes, develop weakening of the bones in the foot and ankle. Thus they may have fractures and dislocations of the bones and joints that occur with little trauma.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will likely coordinate care with a muscle and bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon). Treatment usually involves a protective split, walking brace, or cast.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    joint pain, painful foot swelling, constant foot swelling, pain in one foot, warm red foot swelling
    Symptoms that always occur with charcot arthropathy of the foot:
    warm red foot swelling, constant foot swelling
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Ingrown Toenail

    Ingrown toenails are a common condition. This occurs when the nail grows into the soft skin of the toe, causing pain, redness, swelling, and in rare cases, infection.

    You can safely treat this condition at home. Soak the foot for 15 to 20 minutes at least three times a day. After the soak, place cotton or dental floss under the nail to guide it to grow above rather than into the skin. If infection is suspected, an over the counter antibiotic cream should be applied.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    toe pain, big toe pain, toenail pain, swollen toes, swelling of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th toe
    Symptoms that always occur with ingrown toenail:
    ingrown nail, toe pain
    Symptoms that never occur with ingrown toenail:
    pain between the 2nd and 3rd toe, pain in both feet, pain in the front half of the foot, heel pain, pain in the middle of the foot, foot pain that shoots to the toes, pain in one foot, pain in the outside of the foot
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Heel Pain Treatments and Relief

Heel pain symptoms can be prevented with simple lifestyle changes such as:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Wearing comfortable shoes that support and cushion the heel
  • Stretching and warming up before exercise and sports
  • Massaging the soles of the feet or using an ice pack after prolonged sports activity

If you are experiencing heel pain, try the method below in order to relieve symptoms:

  • Rest: Limit weight-bearing on the heel as much as possible.
  • Ice: Put an ice pack on your heel every 15 minutes in order to reduce swelling or reduce heel pain.
  • Compress: Wrap your heel with a wrap or protective brace that supports both the heel and ankle.
  • Elevate: Raise your heel above the level of your heart to reduce swelling and give your foot a break.

However, if you continue to experience heel pain despite home remedies.

See your physician for appropriate care.

  • Pain medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, like ibuprofen can help relieve heel pain.
  • Physical Therapy: Your physician may prescribe stretching exercises or a physical therapy/rehabilitation program to help you restore strength and stability to your heel.
  • Surgery: If the treatments and methods above do not work, your physician may suggest surgery to repair the structures contributing to your heel pain symptoms.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Heel Pain

  • Q.Is your foot pain getting better or worse?
  • Q.How severe is your foot pain?
  • Q.Have you ever been told you have flat feet?
  • Q.What is your body mass?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our heel pain symptom checker.

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Heel Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced heel pain have also experienced:

    • 5% Foot Pain
    • 4% Achilles Tendon Pain
    • 3% Fatigue
  • People who have experienced heel pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 39% Over a Month
    • 22% Less Than a Week
    • 20% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced heel pain were most often matched with:

    • 10% Psoriatic Arthritis
    • 9% Sever Disease
    • 9% Plantar Fasciitis

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