Have you discovered a lump on your heel? If so, you probably have plenty of questions and more than a little concern. What does this new lump mean? What caused it to appear there in the first place? Is it serious? And how can you make it go away?
While finding a lump on your heel can be very concerning, the first thing you should know is that lumps on the back or bottom of your heel aren’t usually a sign of a serious underlying condition, despite the fact that they can be painful. And most can be treated at home, with non-invasive, natural methods.
Let’s take a look at the symptoms, causes, and treatments associated with a lump on your heel.
Symptoms depend a great deal on the cause of the lump itself.
The lump on your heel might show up in either one or both heels. You may notice redness and swelling around the lump, and the lump may be tender to the touch. Lumps may appear on the sides, back, or bottom of the heel.
In most cases, pain you experience from the lump on your heel will get worse if you rise up on your toes.
There are several conditions that can cause a lump to appear on your heel. Identifying which one you’re dealing with is helpful in determining how to treat the lump, and prevent it from returning!
Haglund’s Deformity or “Pump Bump”
Haglund’s Deformity is also known as “pump bump” because of its primary cause: wearing shoes with a tight heel, like men’s dress shoes or women’s pumps.
The bump develops as the bony section of your heel (which is connected to your Achilles tendon) is irritated and rubbed by ill-fitting shoes causing the tissue of the heel to become irritated. This condition can quickly lead to bursitis, another common cause of heel bumps (read more below!)
People with high arches are particularly at risk for Haglund’s Deformity, since their gait puts extra pressure on the outside of their heel.
Bursitis of the Heel
Bursas are fluid-filled sacs located at the joints in your body. Retrocalcaneal bursitis, or swelling of the heel bursa (located where your Achilles tendon connects your calf to your heel bone), in response to overuse or irritation, can cause a painful lump to appear as the bursa becomes inflamed.
Haglund’s Deformity, caused by irritation to the heel bone, can quickly cause bursitis if left unaddressed. Other causes of bursitis include repetitive motions that involve the feet and heels, such as running and jumping.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis can sometimes be mistaken for Achilles tendonitis, because of the location of the bursa on the heel. A painful lump can often be a distinguishing characteristic.
If not treated promptly with rest, anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, and greater support to the heel and foot, bursitis can become chronic and require more invasive and costly treatment.
If the lump on your heel develops gradually, appears on the bottom of your foot, and is less than an inch in diameter, it may be a plantar fibroma–a benign lump that is a mass of cells.
Plantar fibromas usually show up on the bottom of your foot, beneath the heel. Wearing shoes, or putting pressure on the fibroma may cause pain. There’s some debate as to the cause of fibromas, but most doctors believe there is a genetic component.
While most other lumps on the heel or foot are simply cysts, a benign soft-tissue mass that is not painful to the touch, a few conditions that present as a lump on the heel may be more serious. Synovial Sarcomas, which are malignant, can also show up as a lump on the foot or heel, and are typically small, firm, and painless.
If you have experienced previous trauma to the foot through an accident, in which an object penetrated your foot, you may develop a mass caused by a foreign body reaction.
When in doubt, consult your doctor!
Whether the lump on your heel is caused by Haglund’s Deformity, Bursitis, or a Plantar Fibroma, the recommended treatments are similar. If inflammation is present, icing and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin can help reduce redness and discomfort.
Rest is also an important treatment; try to stay off your feet when possible, and give your feet breaks throughout the day. If repetitive exercise or motion is the culprit, you may need to do more cross-training or change your exercise regimen.
If shoes are the cause of the irritation, wearing comfortable shoes with a less restrictive heel or an open back for a period of time can reduce irritation to the heel bone and bursa.
Specialized orthotic inserts for plantar fasciitis can also provide a great deal of relief, particularly if the bump is on the bottom of the heel, by realigning the foot and reducing pressure on the lump.
Special stretches that help strengthen the tendons and ligaments of the feet and heel can also improve the underlying conditions that are causing the lump on your foot to appear, by giving your foot and heel more support and flexibility.
Your doctor may also recommend an ultrasound or MRI to ensure a correct diagnosis of the lump on your foot.
If the lump on your heel doesn’t respond to the treatments listed here or gets worse, it’s never a bad idea to consult with a medical professional. But for the most part, lumps that appear on the back or bottom of your heels can be treated at home and will go away on their own with a little time and attention–particularly if you begin treatment quickly!