Pain - heel
Heel pain is most often the result of overuse. Rarely, it may be caused by an injury.
Your heel may become tender or swollen from:
- Shoes with poor support or shock absorption
- Running on hard surfaces, like concrete
- Running too often
- Tightness in your calf muscle or the Achilles tendon
- Sudden inward or outward turning of your heel
- Landing hard or awkwardly on the heel
Conditions that may cause heel pain include:
- When the tendon that connects the back of your leg to your heel becomes swollen and painful near the bottom of the foot
- Swelling of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) at the back of the heel bone under the Achilles tendon (bursitis)
- Bone spurs in the heel
- Swelling of the thick band of tissue on the bottom of your foot (plantar fasciitis)
- Fracture of the heel bone that is related to landing very hard on your heel from a fall (calcaneus fracture)
The following steps may help relieve your heel pain:
- Use crutches to take weight off your feet.
- Rest as much as possible for at least a week.
- Apply ice to the painful area. Do this at least twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes, more often in the first couple of days.
- Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
- Wear proper-fitting shoes.
- Use a heel cup, felt pads in the heel area, or shoe insert.
- Wear night splints.
Your doctor may recommend other treatments, depending on the cause of your heel pain.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your doctor if your heel pain does not get better after 2 - 3 weeks of home treatment. Also call if:
- Your pain is getting worse despite home treatment
- Your pain is sudden and severe
- You have redness or swelling of your heel
- You cannot put weight on your foot
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:
- Have you had this type of heel pain before?
- When did your pain begin?
- Do you have pain upon your first steps in the morning or after your first steps after rest?
- Is the pain dull and aching or sharp and stabbing?
- Is it worse after exercise?
- Is it worse when standing?
- Did you fall or twist your ankle recently?
- Are you a runner? If so, how far and how often do you run?
- Do you walk or stand for long periods of time?
- What kind of shoes do you wear?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
Your doctor may order a foot x-ray. You may need to see a physical therapist to learn exercises to stretch and strengthen your foot. Your doctor may recommend a night splint to help stretch your foot. Surgery may be recommended in some cases.
Maintaining flexible and strong muscles in your calves, ankles, and feet can help prevent some types of heel pain. Always stretch and warm-up before exercising.
Wear comfortable, properly fitting shoes with good arch support and cushioning. Make sure there is enough room for your toes.
Murphy GA. Disorders of tendons and fascia and adolescent and adult pes planus. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 82.
McGee DL. Podiatric procedures. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2013:chap 51.
Reviewed By:C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency
or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional
should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911
for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they
do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.
Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.