What Causes Heel Pain?

What could be causing your heel pain?

Heel pain is a common foot condition that can be caused by a variety of factors. It typically refers to discomfort or pain felt in the back or bottom of the heel, although the pain can also radiate to the sides or bottom of the foot.


Some common causes of heel pain include:

  1. Plantar fasciitis: inflammation of the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that runs from the heel to the toes.
  2. Achilles tendonitis: inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
  3. Heel spurs: bony growths that develop on the bottom of the heel bone.
  4. Bursitis: inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints and tendons.
  5. Stress fractures: small cracks in the bone caused by repetitive stress or overuse.


Other factors that can contribute to heel pain include obesity, poorly fitting shoes, flat feet, high arches, and prolonged standing or walking.

Treatment options for heel pain

The treatment for heel pain depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Here are some common treatment options:

  1. Rest and ice: Resting the affected foot and applying ice to the area can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  2. Stretching exercises: Stretching the calf muscles and the plantar fascia can help relieve tension and reduce pain. A podiatrist or physical therapist can recommend specific exercises for your individual needs.
  3. Custom orthotics: Wearing custom-made shoe inserts (orthotics) can help correct any foot abnormalities and distribute pressure evenly across the foot.
  4. Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help reduce pain and inflammation. Your doctor may also prescribe a stronger medication if necessary.
  5. Physical therapy: A physical therapist can work with you to develop an exercise program to help strengthen and stretch the affected foot.
  6. Corticosteroid injections: In some cases, a corticosteroid injection may be recommended to reduce inflammation and pain.
  7. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT): This non-invasive treatment uses shock waves to stimulate healing and reduce pain.
  8. Surgery: Surgery is usually a last resort for heel pain and is only considered if other treatments have failed. The type of surgery will depend on the underlying cause of the pain.

It’s important to consult with a podiatrist or healthcare provider if you are experiencing heel pain. They can properly diagnose the underlying cause of the pain and recommend the most appropriate treatment plan for your individual needs.

Why is a podiatrist like a superhero for diabetic foot patients? Because they know how to ‘heel’ the problems and are the ‘sole’ protectors of your feet.

Activities to avoid if you have heel pain

If you are experiencing heel pain, it’s important to avoid activities that can exacerbate the pain or cause further damage to the affected area. Here are some activities to avoid:

  1. Running or jogging: High-impact activities like running or jogging can put additional stress on the heels and aggravate the pain.
  2. Jumping or high-impact sports: Activities like basketball, volleyball, or high-impact aerobics can also be problematic for those with heel pain.
  3. Standing for long periods of time: Prolonged standing can worsen the pain, so it’s important to take frequent breaks and rest your feet as needed.
  4. Walking long distances: Walking long distances, especially on hard surfaces like concrete, can also aggravate heel pain.
  5. Wearing unsupportive shoes: Shoes that do not provide adequate support can exacerbate heel pain. High heels, flip-flops, and sandals without proper arch support should be avoided.
  6. Walking barefoot: Walking barefoot can increase the stress on the heels and worsen the pain.
  7. Overusing the affected foot: Overusing the affected foot can prolong the healing process and make the pain worse.

Shoe recommendations if you suffer from heel pain

Choosing the right footwear can be an important part of managing heel pain. Here are some features to look for when selecting shoes to help alleviate heel pain:

  1. Good arch support: Shoes with good arch support can help distribute weight evenly across the foot and reduce stress on the heels.
  2. Cushioned soles: Shoes with cushioned soles can help absorb shock and reduce pressure on the heels.
  3. Firm heel counter: A firm heel counter provides stability and helps prevent the foot from rolling inward or outward, which can cause additional strain on the heels.
  4. Wide toe box: Shoes with a wide toe box can help prevent the toes from being cramped and provide ample room for the foot to move.
  5. Low heel: Shoes with a low heel can help reduce pressure on the heels and are generally recommended for those with heel pain.

Some specific types of shoes that may be beneficial for those with heel pain include:

  1. Athletic shoes with good arch support and cushioning
  2. Orthopedic shoes or custom-made shoes with built-in orthotics
  3. Clogs or slip-on shoes with a firm heel counter and cushioned sole
  4. Walking shoes with a low heel and good arch support

It’s important to try on different types of shoes to find the best fit for your individual needs. It’s also recommended to shop for shoes later in the day when your feet are slightly swollen and to wear the same socks or inserts that you plan to wear with the shoes. A podiatrist can also provide guidance on selecting appropriate footwear for heel pain.


What to expect from your appointment with a Podiatrist for heel pain

If you are experiencing heel pain and are scheduled to see a podiatrist, here’s what you can expect from your appointment:

  1. Medical history and physical exam: Your podiatrist will start by asking about your medical history, including any past foot injuries or surgeries. They will also conduct a physical exam of your feet and observe your gait to look for any abnormalities.
  2. Diagnostic tests: Your podiatrist may order diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or an MRI, to help determine the underlying cause of your heel pain.
  3. Diagnosis: Based on your medical history, physical exam, and any diagnostic tests, your podiatrist will make a diagnosis and explain the underlying cause of your heel pain.
  4. Treatment plan: Your podiatrist will work with you to develop a treatment plan that addresses the underlying cause of your heel pain. This may include stretching and strengthening exercises, shoe modifications, orthotics, medication, physical therapy, or other treatments.
  5. Follow-up appointments: Your podiatrist may schedule follow-up appointments to monitor your progress and adjust your treatment plan as needed.

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Picture of Dr. Yasmin Karam

Dr. Yasmin Karam

Dr. Yasmin Karam graduated with a Bachelor of Health Science/Masters in Podiatric Medicine. Dr. Yasmin has had experience working in both private and public sectors, exposing her to a great range of foot complications; from minor nail and skin pathologies to foot mal-alignments and diabetic foot ulcers.

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