Heel Pain

By Noelle Ihli, medically reviewed by Dr. Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

If you’re experiencing heel pain, you’re not alone.

Whether your pain is severe, chronic, dull, or aching, the goal is the same: relief and healing. However, choosing the correct treatment for your heel pain requires carefully evaluating your symptoms and understanding the likely cause.

Foot Conditions That Cause Heel Pain

Heel pain is the hallmark symptom in a variety of foot conditions:

Bursitis of the Heel:

Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that cushion and lubricate joints in the body. When the retrocalcaneal bursa on the back of the heel becomes inflamed and irritated, bursitis of the heel develops, resulting in redness, tenderness, and pain where the heel meets the Achilles tendon.
Learn More About Bursitis of the Heel.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome:

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome develops when the tibial nerve is pinched or constricted in a tunnel that connects the ankle and the foot, reducing blood flow and causing inflammation (think of it as carpal tunnel syndrome of the foot). Risk factors include arthritis, obesity, and heel spurs.
Learn More About Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.

Haglund’s Deformity:

Also known as “pump bump,” Haglund’s Deformity causes a painful lump to form at the back of the heel, usually due to ill-fitting or unsupportive footwear.
Learn More About Haglund’s Deformity.

Posterior Tibial Tendonitis:

This condition is caused by irritation and overuse of the posterior tibial tendon, and manifests as pain on the inside of the foot, heel, ankle, and shin. If standing on one foot while trying to raise your heel off the ground causes a lot of pain, you may have posterior tibial tendonitis.
Learn More About Posterior Tibial Tendonitis.

Osteomyelitis of the Heel:

Osteomyelitis of the heel is an uncommon bone infection that causes pain in the joint, as well as fever and lethargy. This condition is most common in children with accelerated bone growth and individuals with diabetes.
Learn More About Osteomyelitis of the Heel.

Could My Heel Pain Be Plantar Fasciitis?

While it’s true that many conditions can cause heel pain, the American Academy of Family Physicians cites Plantar Fasciitis as the the number one cause of heel pain. Each year, more than 2 million people are treated for this common–and very painful–condition.

If your heel pain is worst in the morning and is localized along the bottom of your foot from the heel to the ball area, it’s very likely that you are suffering from Plantar Fasciitis.

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis is a progressive condition that affects the main ligament spanning the heel, arch and ball area of your foot. This stretchy, flexible ligament is called the Plantar Fascia. You can think of the Plantar Fascia as the “spring in your step”, like a trampoline that is designed to bear weight and absorb the impact of walking, running, and jumping.

Plantar Fasciitis develops when this ligament is damaged or strained, compromising its ability to bear weight and distribute impact. The result is heel pain (also known as “calcaneus pain.”)


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Common Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is most often caused by strain, injury, or overuse that results in micro-injuries and small tears to the Plantar Fascia ligament. If left untreated, these tiny tears and injuries gradually erode the Plantar Fascia’s ability to properly distribute weight and absorb impact. In response to this trauma, the body may form tiny calcium deposits, known as Heel Spurs, in an attempt to support the compromised arch. As these sharp deposits grow, they can dig into the soft, fatty tissue that cushions your heel, causing sore heels and inflammation. Plantar Fasciitis Medical Diagram The following risk factors are known to damage the arch of the foot and cause Plantar Fasciitis:
  • An irregular gait that causes uneven weight distribution while you walk (pronation)
  • Weight gain (including weight gain from pregnancy) which places additional strain and pressure on the Plantar Fascia ligament
  • The aging process, which can result in reduced strength and flexibility in the Plantar Fascia
  • High-impact exercise (walking, running, jumping) that exposes the heel to pounding and pressure without adequate rest periods
  • Working conditions that require long periods of standing or repeated lifting of heavy objects
  • Wearing ill-fitting or worn shoes that don’t properly cushion or support the arch
  • The normal aging process, which can result in a loss of ligament elasticity
  • Flat feet or high arches

Symptoms of Heel Pain Caused By Plantar Fasciitis

While a variety of conditions cause heel pain, the telltale symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis will help you and your doctor identify this common ailment. Plantar Fasciitis may develop gradually or have a sudden onset, and the condition may present itself in one or both feet. Symptoms are typically mild at first and gradually worsen as the Plantar Fascia ligament sustains further strain and damage. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s important to seek treatment quickly, as these symptoms often become worse if left untreated:
  • A tenderness that is primarily localized in the bottom of the heel
  • Pain in only one heel, or pain in both heels
  • Heel pain that is worst in the morning, or after long periods of inactivity
  • Heel pain that improves somewhat after standing or walking around
  • Dull, aching pain in the foot or severe heel pain that is stabbing and intense
  • Feelings of heat in the heel or redness on the skin near the heel
  • Heel pain that seems to get worse as you age
  • Heel pain that coincides with obesity or rapid weight gain
  • Limping or pain from bearing weight on the affected foot
  • Heel pain that is aggravated by long periods of standing, or high-impact activities
Whether you are experiencing a sudden onset of foot pain or have been trying to ignore recurring foot pain for years, the most important step you can take toward recovery is spending a few moments reviewing your symptom history. If your symptoms point toward Plantar Fasciitis, you can take comfort in the fact that more than 90% of Plantar Fasciitis cases can be resolved with conservative, at-home treatments.

Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis Heel Pain

While some severe cases of Plantar Fasciitis may require invasive or extreme treatments, such as Cortisone injections or surgery, most people can find relief and healing by taking a few simple, non-invasive, inexpensive actions:


Spend part of each day seated or lying down, taking the pressure of your body’s weight off your Plantar Fascia ligament. Rest allows your Plantar Fascia to heal micro-injuries and “bounce back” over time.


Apply an ice pack for twenty minutes, twice a day, to your heel to bring down inflammation, redness, and pain.


Simple stretches, performed once or twice a day for 10-15 minutes can improve the strength and flexibility of the Plantar Fascia ligament and surrounding muscles and tissue. A strong, flexible arch is an arch that can withstand greater impact and weight!


Orthotic inserts like Heel Seats designed especially for Plantar Fasciitis sufferers can raise the arch to an optimal level to absorb impact and distribute weight. Orthotics also relieve pain by taking the pressure off Heel Spurs and cushioning the heel of the foot. Heel Seats Diagram Heel Seats are clinically tested and proven to reduce the symptoms and causes of heel pain. The patented design gently lifts and realigns the Plantar Fascia to its normal position, allowing for the resolution of painful bone spurs or microtrauma. Heel Seats increase comfort in standing and walking by adding a dense, cushioning layer to the fatty pad of the heel, which may have become thin and worn due to overtaxing pressure. These unique orthotic inserts also apply therapeutic acupressure to the heel bone, encouraging a natural healing response. Read complete product details. Heel Seats have been tested by professional athletes with exceptional results, making these orthotics ideal for even the most active individuals. Most people who use this product experience relief from their heel pain within 30 days, with the assurance of a 100% money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with this remarkable product.

Further Reading

Burning Heel Pain Heel Pain in Children Foot Pain Treatments
Home Remedies HTP Treatments