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Heel pain


Definition

Heel pain usually affects the bottom or back of the heel. Heel pain is rarely a symptom of something serious. But it can get in the way of activities, such as walking.

Causes

The most common causes of heel pain are plantar fasciitis, which affects the bottom of the heel, and Achilles tendinitis, which affects the back of the heel. Causes of heel pain include:

  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Achilles tendon rupture
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Bone tumor
  • Bursitis (A condition in which small sacs that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near joints become inflamed.)
  • Haglund's deformity
  • Heel spur
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Paget's disease of bone
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Plantar warts
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Retrocalcaneal bursitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Stress fractures (Tiny cracks in a bone.)
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome

When to see a doctor

See your health care provider right away for:

  • Severe heel pain right after an injury.
  • Severe pain and swelling near the heel.
  • Not being able to bend the foot downward, rise on toes or walk as usual.
  • Have heel pain with fever, numbness or tingling in the heel.

Schedule an office visit if:

  • There's heel pain even when not walking or standing.
  • Heel pain lasts more than a few weeks, even after you've tried rest, ice and other home treatments.

Self-care

Heel pain often goes away on its own with home care. For heel pain that isn't severe, try the following:

  • Rest. If possible, don't do anything that puts stress on your heels, such as running, standing for long periods or walking on hard surfaces.
  • Ice. Place an ice pack or bag of frozen peas on your heel for 15 to 20 minutes three times a day.
  • New shoes. Be sure your shoes fit properly and give plenty of support. If you're an athlete, choose shoes that are designed for your sport. Replace them regularly.
  • Foot supports. Heel cups or wedges that you buy without a prescription often give relief. Custom-made orthotics usually aren't needed for heel problems.
  • Pain medicines. Medicines you can get without a prescription can help relieve pain. These include aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others).

Content Last Updated: 05-Apr-2023
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