Conditions & Symptoms

Heel Pain

The heel is designed to take a lot of stress. It is padded with thick skin and fat so you can pound the pavement or do sports activities without pain. If you do these things to excess, however, you can develop various kinds of heel pain. Heel pain can occur from overuse of the heel or from wearing shoes that do not effectively cradle the heel as you walk or run.

Heel pain is very common. Fortunately, it can get better without treatment (including surgery) if you allow the heel to rest. On the other hand, some people ignore early heel pain and continue to walk or run on the heel until it becomes impossible to do so without pain. The pain can even be present when you are not on the foot, leading to chronic pain that affects many of your daily activities.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Heel Pain

Heel pain can be located on the bottom of the heel or in the back of the heel. The doctor can ask you questions about where your pain is located and may be able to elicit tenderness in the affected area. The range of motion of heel and ankle will be assessed and areas of swelling noted.

Because there can be many causes of heel pain, you should seek the advice of a doctor or podiatrist who can help you identify the source of the pain. X-rays may be taken to see if there is any heel spur on the bottom of the heel that may be contributing to the pain. The doctor will also watch you walk and will ask you to stand on the heel to see how it sits on the ground.

Causes of Pain underneath the Heel

If you are experiencing pain beneath the heel, it may be due to any number of conditions that cause inflammation of the soft tissue at the bottom of the foot. These include the following:

  • Bruising from stepping on something. You can step on something hard like a stone or rock, bruising the tissue that normally pads the heel. This may show up as a bruise on the bottom of the foot and minor swelling. Usually, you know you’ve stepped on something and can rest the foot, thereby relieving the pain and inflammation.
  • Heel Spur. You can develop a heel spur on the bottom of your calcaneus, which is made from a calcium deposit. The heel spur is the insertion point of the plantar fascia that spreads along the arch of the foot to help form the arch. An x-ray can be done to show the calcium deposit. The best way to treat a heel spur is to rest the foot as much as possible. Your podiatrist or doctor will show you exercises you can do to relieve the pain or can make or recommend inserts for your shoe that are cut out to protect the heel spur. In rare cases, surgery needs to be done to remove the heel spur if conservative measures fail to heal the pain and inflammation.
  • Plantar fasciitis. This is an inflammation of the connective tissue band that connects the calcaneus (the heel bone) to the base of the bones that make up the toes. It is caused by walking or running too much on the foot. The pain is usually in the base of the heel but it can spread down the foot to involve the entire arch of the foot. It is usually worse first thing in the morning or after an exercise program involving being on your feet. Your doctor or podiatrist can recommend exercises to ease the pain of plantar fasciitis, and heel pads can be placed in the shoe to protect the plantar fascia and ease the heel pain.

Causes of Pain behind the Heel

Pain behind the heel is usually related to the Achilles tendon; specifically to an inflammation of the area where the Achilles tendon connects to the calcaneus. This is called “retrocalcaneal bursitis”. This can be caused by excessive running or by having shoes that excessively rub the back part of the heel. This type of pain tends to build gradually over time. The skin over the heel can be thickened from excessive rubbing on it and there can be redness or swelling over the back of the heel.

Some people will get a bump on this part of the heel that is both warm and tender. It may be more painful first thing in the morning or when you get up after resting for a period of time. Wearing normal shoes can become too painful when this occurs. There may be a bone spur underneath the swelling and an x-ray can show this.

The best treatment for pain behind the heel is to do various kinds of stretching exercises, avoiding activities that worsen the pain and wearing shoes that have an open back. Heel inserts can be prescribed to put pressure on different parts of the heel and stretching exercises can be done to stretch out the Achilles tendon. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication can be used for the pain and ice can temporarily ease the inflammation.

“I love to play basketball but was prevented from doing so by my heel pain, so my osteopath Jenny Mullen suggested I see The Foot Practice. I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, then given fun exercises and advised that I needed to wear orthotics to alleviate the pain. He used a sleek 3D scanning machine to make a great fitting orthotic to use with my every day shoe. After wearing them for a month the pain was gone and I felt an improve strength in my feet especially during sports even though the pain has gone I continue to wear the soles. Thank you very much Tim.”

Other Foot Conditions & Symptoms

Ankle Sprains

Ankle Sprains

Most ankle sprains come from accidently inverting the foot. When you invert the foot, you twist the ankle inward, landing on the outside bone of the ankle. This causes tearing and stretching of the ligaments that support the outside part of the ankle. You will have...

read more
Bunions

Bunions

The medical terms for bunions are hallux abducto valgus or just hallux valgus. It is a common foot problem, especially among women. It involves having a large bump on the inner aspect of the foot at the site of the connection between the big toe and the foot itself....

read more
Cavus Foot

Cavus Foot

Having a cavus foot basically means you are a person with very high arches. Rather than putting pressure on the whole of the foot, the pressure of standing and walking is placed on the ball of the foot and the heel of the foot, leading to instability and pain when...

read more
Corns and Calluses

Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses are thickened and hard areas of skin that happen when the skin protects itself against the pressure and friction of shoes or the ground. While they can look ugly, they are not dangerous and can easily be treated if they are painful. If you just...

read more
Diabetic Foot

Diabetic Foot

If you suffer from diabetes mellitus (type 1 or type 2), this means your blood sugar is too high over much of the time. High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels and nerves, starting with the foot. It can result in a loss of feeling in the foot and poor...

read more
Flat Feet

Flat Feet

The medical term for “flat feet” is “pes planus” or sometimes we just call them “fallen arches. You are considered to have flat feet when the arches that give the foot its characteristic shape are flattened so that the whole sole of the foot touches the ground upon...

read more
Illiotibial Band Syndrome

Illiotibial Band Syndrome

Iliotibial Band Syndrome is also referred to as ITBS. It is a common overuse injury that runner’s incur by running too much. The syndrome happens when the ligament running from the outer portion of the thigh to the outer aspect of the shin (the iliotibial band)...

read more
Ingrown Nails

Ingrown Nails

Onychocryptosis is the technical term for an ingrown toenail, this is an often painful condition in which the nail grows so that it cuts into one or both sides of the nail bed. This condition has been found only in shoe-wearing cultures and does not occur in...

read more
Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown Toenails

The medical term for ingrown toenail is onychocryptosis. Ingrown toenails usually affect the great toe. Usually only one toe is affected but some people can have ingrown toenails on both feet. They are most common in athletes who scuff up their toes often and often...

read more
Knee Pain

Knee Pain

The knee joint takes a great deal of your weight when you are walking so it is especially prone to becoming painful or being injured. You can suffer from acute knee pain because of a car accident, a fall, or a sports injury. You can also suffer from chronic knee pain...

read more
Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is the general medical term for having inflammation and pain in the ball of the foot. It isn’t a disease in and of itself but is a symptom of other problems going on with the foot. The main cause of metatarsalgia is overuse of the foot. It is seen often...

read more
Morton’s Neuromas

Morton’s Neuromas

A Morton’s neuroma stems from having excess pressure on the nerves of your foot, usually from wearing shoes that are too tight. It is actually a small ball of nerve bundles that have formed a benign tumor on the ball of the foot, usually located in the web space...

read more
Pigeon Toe Gait

Pigeon Toe Gait

A pigeon toe gait goes by many different medical names including intoeing, metatarsus adductus, metatarsus varus, and false club foot. These are all just fancy terms to describe a person who has toes that point toward the inside of the foot when they walk. Many...

read more
Scoliosis

Scoliosis

Scoliosis usually means you have curvature of the spine that goes in a lateral direction. The curvature is usually in the thoracic and lumbar spine and can lead to chronic back pain, an obvious deformity of the spine, and an abnormal gait. Scoliosis usually happens...

read more
Shin Splints

Shin Splints

Shin splints are a common name for tibial stress syndrome, which results in pain in the shin bone or tibia of the lower leg. The tibia is the main bone that takes the stress of the lower leg when running or doing sports. Shin splints are especially common in people...

read more
Verrucas Plantar Warts

Verrucas Plantar Warts

Verruca (or plantar warts) are a contagious, viral, and usually painful wart on the sole of the foot. The Foot Practice sees many patients who are frustrated with the condition, having tried all manner of treatments at other clinics. We are pleased that we have an...

read more