No matter where heel pain strikes (front, middle, back, or everywhere!), the biggest question on your mind is likely, “How can I make it stop?” However, the location of your heel pain reveals important clues about its underlying cause!
Inner heel pain can present as achy, bruise-like, or sharp and intense. By understanding your unique symptoms and honing in on the why your inner heel hurts, you can take more effective steps toward treatment. Let’s get to the bottom of your inner heel pain:
Why Does My Inner Heel Hurt?
The most common causes of heel pain deep within the heel are trapped nerves, plantar fasciitis, fat pad syndrome, and stress fractures.
Trapped Nerves in the Heel
Sometimes, nerves in the heel can become “entrapped,” or squeezed/constricted because of injury to the foot, trauma, or simply overuse. There are several key nerves that run along the inside of the heel and connect to the posterior tibial nerve. These nerves include the medial plantar nerve medial calcaneal nerve, the lateral plantar nerve, and the nerve to the abductor digiti minimi.
- Pain may feel tingling, numb, or burning
- You may notice tenderness to the touch along the inner heel. The exact location of the pain will depend on which nerve is entrapped.
- Symptoms may flare up when you walk or participate in physical activities, and improve somewhat with rest
- Pain from an entrapped nerve is usually felt in just one foot
If your inner heel pain is caused by an entrapped nerve, your doctor will likely recommend rest from activities that aggravate pain, icing, stretching, and anti-inflammatory medication as needed. If these more conservative treatment methods do not work, your doctor may recommend surgery to decompress the entrapped nerve.
Heel Pad Syndrome
A thin, atrophied heel pad can result in a painful condition known as Heel Pad Syndrome. This condition can be caused by aging, weight gain, repetitive impact on hard surfaces, or unsupportive, uncushioned footwear.
- Bruise-like pain deep in the heel as the fat pad is no longer able to cushion the heel effectively
- Pain that can be recreated by firm pressure on the bottom of the heel
- Pain that gets worse when you walk on hard surfaces
- Heel Pad Syndrome is often closely linked with plantar fasciitis
Treatments for Heel Pad Syndrome involve lots of rest and better support and cushioning for the heel. Your doctor will likely recommend icing, anti-inflammatory medicines as needed, taping, and orthotic inserts that cushion the heel, support the foot, and reduce pain while walking.
Stress Fractures on the Heel
A stress fracture on the heel is a very thin crack in the heel bone that can be caused by repetitive stress or impact to the heel, or a sudden blow to the heel. The risk for stress fractures is elevated in high impact sports, for people with osteoporosis or with low vitamin D levels, or for individuals who increase the intensity of their workouts significantly without warming up.
- Pain may come on gradually or onset suddenly and is typically sharp and intense
- Pain that gets worse the longer you stay on your feet and gets worse if you stretch
- Pain that is located in one very specific spot on the heel
- Swelling, redness, and tenderness to the touch
It’s important to see a doctor and treat suspected stress fractures right away, to avoid further damage or a complete break in the bone. Your doctor may recommend an Ace Bandage or KT tape to help stabilize the foot, and may also recommend crutches, a cast, and complete rest from the foot while you heal. Icing and anti-inflammatories can help with pain while you heal.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by damage to the plantar fascia ligament, which runs from the heel to the ball of the foot. This damage, combined with inflammation in the heel can lead to intense pain in the heel. Risk factors for plantar fasciitis include weight gain, wearing unsupportive shoes, intense exercise without proper warmup, and jobs that require a lot of standing and walking.
- Pain that is worst in the morning, with the first few steps out of bed
- Pain that gets slightly better with movement and improves with stretching
- Stiff, aching heels
- Swelling, pain, and inflammation in the heels
- Pain may be dull, or sharp and needling
Thankfully, most cases of plantar fasciitis can be treated at home with rest, stretches to improve flexibility, and orthotic inserts that realign the plantar fascia and cushion the heel. Icing, anti-inflammatory medication, and dietary changes to lose weight when possible can also help speed up healing.
What to Do if You Have Inner Heel Pain
If you have inner heel pain, the most important thing you can do is hone in on your unique symptoms and educate yourself — while you rest from any activities that seem to be exacerbating the pain!
This information will help you communicate effectively with your doctor, determine the source of your inner heel pain, and form an effective and actionable plan for treatment.
In general, most cases of inner heel pain can be resolved with conservative treatment rather than invasive medical procedures like surgery. Unless your heel pain is very severe, or you suspect a fracture, try conservative treatment methods first! In most cases, you’ll be back on your feet in a relatively short amount of time.
Wondering which foot pain products are the real game-changers for heel pain or plantar fasciitis?
You won’t find any so-so or “it worked okay” products on this list. Every single one is a slam dunk (a most have a money-back guarantee to boot!)
Just so you know, we participate in the Amazon Affiliates program, so we may earn a small commission if you purchase through the links in this article.
It’s no surprise that so many people have nicknamed these orthotic inserts “Little blue miracles.” Skeptical? Just read the thousands of glowing reviews from plantar fasciitis sufferers who thought they had tried “everything” for foot pain.”
Not only do washable, reusable Heel Seats hold their shape time after time (unlike the cheap foam ones that end up crushed and flat), but they provide just the right amount of support, combined with just the right amount of cushioning. Most people notice a difference in pain relief right away, and after a few weeks of wear you can expect to kiss foot pain goodbye — or your money back.
Click here to get Heel Seats (add two pairs to your cart for a special discount!)
Penetrex was developed in Southern California after eight years of research. And this stuff is a lifesaver for quick foot pain relief. It won’t stain your socks, won’t leave your feet feeling slippery or greasy, and it doesn’t have a weird smell (which makes it especially great for the office or on the job!).
Bonus: It also comes with an unconditional guarantee: “Pain-free results, or a pain-free refund.”
Move aside, flip-flops. There’s no need to choose between adorable (but flimsy and unsupportive) footwear for the beach, and stodgy, hot orthotic shoes. Heel Seat Wraps can be worn with almost any pair of sandals (or all by themselves!) for summery, toes-in-the-sand bliss combined with arch support and pain relief.
If hammer toes or bunions are the cause of your foot pain, a toe stretcher like Yoga Toes can make a world of difference!
Toe separators gently uncurl, separate, and stretch, painful or deformed toes while you rest, improving circulation, realigning the toes, and gently stretching the tendons and muscles of the foot. This can also be beneficial for heel pain and plantar fasciitis!
These slippers are an absolute game-changer when it comes to icing your feet. No more Ziploc baggies of leaking, watery ice cubes (that freeze into crazy shapes when you try to reuse them!).
Ice Therapy Slippers are foot-shaped ice packs that strap right to your feet, so they stay put, delivering soothing cold therapy to inflamed, painful heels or feet. When you’re done icing, just pop them back in the freezer for next time!
Let’s face it: It’s not always easy to get that perfect stretch for your arch. The no-slip ProStretch foot stretcher allows you to get a deeper, perfectly positioned stretch that can help loosen tight calves, heels, arches, and hamstrings; improve strength and flexibility; and improve blood flow.
A damaged, injured plantar fascia needs stability and support. Taping up the foot and arch with KT tape is a fantastic way to help stabilize the plantar fascia and limit movement while you heal. The extra compression and support is also a lifesaver for pain relief!
There’s a slight learning curve when it comes to taping technique, but the good news is that tape can stay put for several days (and overnight!) before it starts to peel off.
Hold on, don’t skip this one! You might think you’ve tried compression socks before, but if you haven’t tried these babies, you haven’t tried compression socks! With gentle yet firm compression, comfortable cuffs, and roomy toes you’ll feel supported–without feeling strangled! The material is breathable, anti-fungal, and cozy. Wear them day or night for soothing compression that helps reduce swelling and promote blood circulation.
Speaking of circulation, this calf/foot massager is a true gem that improves circulation soothes aching feet. Give yourself the gift of the perfect foot/calf massage every single night! The slip-on boots have two massage modes, with three intensity levels and a handheld remote control. (Don’t be too surprised if you spouse or roommate tries to steal this one!)
A massage ball made especially for plantar fasciitis is just the ticket for anytime pain relief. Pop it in your purse, desk drawer, or even in your glovebox! Just roll it along the bottom of each foot for 2-3 minutes to help relieve tightness and knots, improve blood flow, and relieve pain quickly.
If your foot pain is localized in the metatarsal area (where the toes connect to the foot) from diabetes, Morton’s neuroma, calluses, or bunions a metatarsal pad can be a lifesaver. This soft gel pad cushions and compresses the ball of the foot for pain relief, support, and help properly distributing bodyweight while walking and other physical activities.
Knowledge is power–and one of the most important ways you can beat foot pain! This free plantar fasciitis ebook covers causes and symptoms of plantar fasciitis, as well as proven natural and medical treatment options for foot pain!
While electrical current might sound like a strange solution for foot pain, it’s actually pretty incredible. A tens machine delivers an “electrical massage,” using sticky electrodes that attach to your foot. These low-voltage pulses help stimulate the muscles for better blood circulation, reduced inflammation, and rapid temporary pain relief.
Cupping is standard practice for injured athletes— and if you’ve ever wondered what you might be missing, this cupping set is an excellent option! Cupping can help improve foot pain through a unique deep-tissue massage as the cups pull the skin and tissue of the foot into the vacuum created by the cups.
If you have foot pain paired with high arches, standard orthotic inserts might not cut it. Full-Length Heel Seats take support to the next level, by gently cradling the entire foot while re-aligning the arch to an ideal position.
You know that “ahhh” feeling when you step into a perfectly warm bath? This soft, heated foot warmer is like that! Use it to relieve muscle aches, relax and warm cold feet, and stimulate blood flow in painful feet.
First, the good news: 90% of plantar fasciitis cases can be successfully resolved with simple, conservative treatments.
What’s the bad news? The longer plantar fasciitis goes unaddressed, the longer the healing process takes and the more potential complications that may arise. Not allowing your arch enough rest time after a foot injury, working a job that requires a lot of time on your feet, participating in high-impact activities without proper footwear or support, and failing to follow through with at-home treatments after symptoms develop are the most common ways plantar fasciitis persists and gets worse.
Risks of Untreated Plantar Fasciitis
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis and heel pain usually develop gradually, although some cases can develop more quickly (for instance, after a foot injury). If heel pain and other symptoms of plantar fasciitis (like redness, inflammation, and swelling in the feet) are left untreated, other more serious complications can arise:
Over time, if plantar fasciitis is left untreated, the inflammation and stress to the plantar fascia can result in small tears in the fascia (sometimes called “micro-injuries”). You may not be aware of the exact moment that each small tear appears, however you will notice your pain level gradually worsen. If these tears are left unaddressed, they may grow in size and number, and make the plantar fascia more vulnerable to rupture and debilitation.
Plantar rupture can happen if plantar fasciitis is not addressed, but an individual continues to participate in activities that place a great deal of impact on the plantar fascia. These activities might include jogging, sports, or even standing for long periods of time in ill-fitting footwear.
Symptoms of plantar fascia rupture usually include a loud popping sound, followed by intense pain, bruising, and swelling in the foot. Putting weight on the affected foot will be very painful. If you suspect plantar rupture, you should seek medical help immediately. You will likely be required to wear a boot or crutches for a period of time after a ruptured plantar fascia.
Research also shows that steroid injections, a common treatment for pain relief of chronic plantar fasciitis, are a significant risk factor for plantar rupture, because of the way that the steroids interfere with collagen synthesis in the foot.
Plantar fibromatosis is a condition in which benign, slow-growing nodules form along the plantar fascia. The nodules often grow slowly and undetected, followed by sudden, rapid growth. As time passes and the nodules grow, walking may become uncomfortable or painful.
While many cases of plantar fibromatosis are believed to be triggered by genetics, there is is a correlation between individuals with plantar fasciitis and individuals with plantar fibromatosis. Some researchers believe that plantar fibromatosis can be triggered by a tear in the fascia that is left untreated.
Heel spurs are one of the most common consequences of leaving plantar fasciitis untreated. In an attempt to protect the arch of your foot and mitigate damage, your body sends an army of cells to the site of the problem, which begins depositing calcium. Over time, these deposits can build up into sharp protrusions that dig into the fatty pad of the heel and cause a great deal of pain with each step.
Heel spurs can build up over several months’ time without causing pain. In other words, allowing plantar fasciitis to go untreated may mean that a secondary problem brews unnoticed–until the sharp pain reappears.
Complicated Decisions About Surgery and Medical Interventions
Left untreated, plantar fasciitis can become chronic and make surgery more likely. While surgery can be a successful last resort for cases of chronic plantar fasciitis that don’t respond to conservative treatments like orthotics, rest, and icing, it’s important to remember that surgery can often be avoided through prompt and consistent treatment when heel pain arises.
Help avoid complicated (and expensive) decisions about surgery and other medical interventions by taking symptoms of plantar fasciitis seriously!
Hip, Knee, and Back Pain from Plantar Fasciitis
Over time, untreated plantar fasciitis and heel pain can lead to unexpected hip, back, and knee pain. The arches of the feet work in tandem with the tendons, ligaments, and muscles throughout the lower body. When the plantar fascia is compromised, other muscles, ligaments, and tendons must work harder to compensate. This cascade of overuse can eventually lead to pain outside the arch.
Plantar fasciitis can also lead to abnormal gait patterns while walking or standing, leading to repetitive stress injuries as the hips, knees, and backs are repeatedly required to move in abnormal ways.
Listen to the Warning Signs of Plantar Fasciitis
Recognizing the symptoms of plantar fasciitis and treating this condition early is the best way to avoid secondary problems and complications. Think of the pain from developing plantar fasciitis as a warning, encouraging you to address the problem at hand before more damage occurs. Stretching, icing, and using special orthotic inserts are all effective ways to curb the damage from plantar fasciitis and begin healing.
This article was originally published on May 17, 2020, and updated on January 31, 2021.
The fat pad squeeze test is a diagnostic tool your doctor may use to rule out stress fractures and bursitis before ordering imaging scans, or making a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis.
Keep reading to learn what you should expect from a calcaneus squeeze test, when your doctor may use this test, and whether you can do this test at home.
What to Expect From a Calcaneus Squeeze Test
A calcaneus squeeze test is a very simple diagnostic tool, that can be performed in just a few seconds in your doctor’s office.
During the fat pad squeeze test, you will lie down on your stomach, with your knees flexed so that the doctor can easily examine your heels.
Your doctor will then squeeze the fat pad of your heel, using three different motions to compress the back, sides, and middle of the heel. Depending on the location and severity of pain during the squeeze test, your doctor can rule out stress fractures and bursitis of the heel, or confirm a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis.
What Your Doctor Can Learn from a Fat Pad Squeeze Test
A fat pad squeeze test can be helpful in two different ways: The test can help confirm your doctor’s diagnosis of plantar fasciitis, bursitis of the heel, or stress fracture in the heel depending on where you feel pain during the test. Or the test can help rule out one or more of these diagnoses. Sometimes initial symptoms of heel pain can present similarly, and the heel squeeze test can hone in on a more precise locus of pain and help your doctor decide whether further imagining is needed.
Plantar Fasciitis or Heel Fracture: Tenderness or discomfort when the doctor presses down on the middle of your heel indicates potential plantar fasciitis. More intense pain indicates a possible heel fracture.
Retrocalcaneal Bursitis: Pain when the doctor presses down on the back of the heel indicates likely inflamed bursa at the back of the heel, or retrocalcaneal bursitis.
Heel Fracture: Sharp pain that results from squeezing the sides of the heel is a warning sign of a heel fracture.
When Your Doctor Might Use the Heel Pain Squeeze Test
Your doctor may decide to perform a heel pain squeeze test any time you are experiencing severe heel pain that makes it difficult to walk or go about your daily activities. Fat pad squeeze tests can be especially helpful in confirming or ruling out stress fractures, in cases where a case of plantar fasciitis does not seem to be improving with conservative care.
If you have any of the following symptoms, that seem to indicate a possible stress fracture or retrocalcaneal bursitis, your doctor may want to do a fat pad squeeze test:
- Pain that gets worse the longer you are on your feet
- Pain that is extremely sensitive to the touch, on the back, sides, or middle of the heel
- Pain that improves somewhat with a long period of rest
- Pain that gets worse when you stand on tiptoe or flex your feet downward (this can indicate bursitis)
Can You Do the Fat Pad Squeeze Test At Home?
While the fat pad squeeze test might sound simple, you shouldn’t try it yourself at home. For one thing, it will be difficult (without an extensive knowledge of the ligaments, bones, and tendons in the foot) to know precisely where to squeeze during each movement.
And just as importantly, without training to help you know how hard to squeeze, it’s possible that you may inflict further damage or pain on an already tender area! If your heel is extremely tender to the touch, can’t support any weight, and gets worse (instead of improving slightly) with stretching and movement throughout the day, it’s time to schedule a doctor’s appointment. You may have a stress fracture or bursitis, instead of plantar fasciitis.
Do I Need to Get a Heel Pain Test?
If your symptoms are consistent with mild to moderate plantar fasciitis, you likely don’t need a heel pain test. The overwhelming percentage (90%) of plantar fasciitis cases can be resolved simply with conservative care, at home within about 3-6 months. Get plenty of rest, ice your feet to manage pain and inflammation, stretch your feet to help improve mobility and strength in the plantar fascia, and wear orthotic inserts to realign and support the damaged fascia.
If, however, your symptoms are severe or inconsistent with mild to moderate plantar fasciitis (for example, extreme tenderness to the touch), you should make an appointment with your doctor, who may decide to perform a heel pain test.
There’s no question that clogs and Crocs are amazing. We love the way they slide right on without laces and straps, softly cradle our tired feet, and take us everywhere from the beach to the grocery store.
But we all know that the things we love aren’t always good for us. And many people have questions about whether Crocs and clogs are actually good for plantar fasciitis.
Don’t worry — we won’t tell you to toss your favorite pair of Crocs or clogs. But there are a few things you should know!
Are Clogs Good for Plantar Fasciitis?
Clogs have been around for a very long time–and with good reason! Wooden clogs were worn by the Dutch while they farmed long hours on their feet, and people around the world have adopted them since–including people who suffer from plantar fasciitis!
It’s important to remember that not all clogs are created equal. Some can be a lifesaver for painful heels, while others can actually make your plantar fasciitis worse.
Benefits of Clogs for Plantar Fasciitis
You can find a staggering array of different clogs — from lightweight trendy slippers to orthopedic clogs made especially for professionals who spend a lot of time on their feet.
The right pair of clogs can offer easy-on, easy-off casual footwear that cradles and cushions sore heels, doesn’t compress your toes while you walk, and supports your damaged arch.
Clogs designed for working professionals or orthopedic support are ideal for individuals with plantar fasciitis. Choose clogs with a thick, cushioned sole, clear arch support, and a comfortable fit that leaves you plenty of room in the toe box but doesn’t slide around while you walk.
Drawbacks of Clogs for Plantar Fasciitis
Most of the drawbacks of wearing clogs for plantar fasciitis come from choosing the wrong type of clog or wearing a shoe that doesn’t fit properly. Ill-fitting or cheaply made shoes can place additional strain on your damaged arch, or cause additional wear to an already damaged heel pad.
Avoid clogs with a hard, thin sole and opt for a cushioned, thick sole with clear arch support. You’ll also want to make sure your clogs fit properly and don’t cause your foot to slide around too much while you walk (another hallmark of cheaper fashion clogs). A comfortably loose fit in the toe box is ideal, but your heel should be cupped securely, resting below the ball of the foot when you stand in the shoe.
Are Crocs Good for Plantar Fasciitis?
Crocs, which were originally made as non-slip, waterproof shoes for boating, have quickly become a popular choice for plantar fasciitis sufferers.
Benefits of Crocs for Plantar Fasciitis
Like clogs, Crocs come in a wide number of colors, styles, and brands! Some crocs are now made especially for individuals with heel pain, while others are meant to be worn as a casual, colorful waterproof shoe.
The right pair of crocs can help protect your feet, cushion your heel, and support your arch in situations that you might otherwise go barefoot (like the beach, pool, in the yard, or on a boat).
Crocs are typically extremely lightweight, breathable, and promote circulation which can be an advantage over clogs, especially in the summertime — or for individuals with diabetes. And like clogs, Crocs have lots of room in the toe box to promote a natural, healthy gait that doesn’t compress the toes.
Potential Drawbacks of Crocs for Plantar Fasciitis
Crocs weren’t meant to be running shoes, or even walking shoes for long distances. Don’t wear them while you walk or stand for long periods of time. Instead, opt for running shoes with orthotic inserts, which will offer better arch support and cushioning.
You’ll also want to be wary of “fashion crocs,” which are typically thinner, less cushioned, don’t have much in the way of arch support, and are less structurally stable while you walk.
Make sure you choose a pair of Crocs that has a supportive heel cup, arch support, and a thick, cushioned sole (instead of thinner plastic that may bend or distort as you walk).
How to Make Your Fashion Crocs or Clogs Better for Plantar Fasciitis
Have a pair of trendy Crocs or clogs you love — that aren’t exactly compatible with your plantar fasciitis because of a hard, thin sole or lack of arch support? There’s no need to toss your favorite pair of shoes.
Just add arch support and heel cushioning with Heel Seat Wraps. These lightweight, comfortable wraps can be worn all by themselves, or with almost any pair of shoes (including open toed sandals!) to help align and support a compromised arch, and soothe a damaged heel pad.
If you have plantar fasciitis, clogs and Crocs can make long hours on your feet more bearable and comfortable–as long as they have the proper arch support, cushioning, and fit! But even if your favorite pair of crocs or clogs lack arch support or cushioning, there’s still hope. Just add a pair of Heel Seat Wraps, so you can continue to wear the shoes you love without worrying about making your heel pain worse!