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4 Most Common Causes of Heel Pain

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

One of the most common issues that brings patients into the clinic is heel pain, so here is a breakdown of the four most frequent causes for why your heel might be hurting.

While there is not a simple one-size-fits-all reason for why you might be experiencing heel pain, as podiatrists heel pain is usually categorized into four main causes: plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, bursitis and nerve pain. An accurate diagnosis will depend on where exactly the pain is located and how it affects other biomechanics (ex. movement of the leg or ankle).

  • Of the four major causes of heel pain, plantar fasciitis is the most common. It is an inflammation of the plantar fascia which is a band of tissue that stretches from the heel to the toes. What causes pain in this case is the irritation and consequent inflammation of the fascia, resulting in pain at the heel or in the arch of the foot. In most cases, treatment of plantar fasciitis is non-surgical, rather we utilize methods such as stretching exercises, rest, and orthotics in order to correct the problem.

  • The second cause, Achilles tendonitis, is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon which extends from the rear of the heel to the lower calf. Achilles tendonitis is often a result of overuse in patients who play dynamic, high-impact sports like basketball or soccer. Sudden increases in repeated activities that utilize the Achilles tendon can cause too much stress too quickly, resulting in injury. Common treatment methods for Achilles tendonitis include immobilization of the foot through use of a boot or brace, as well as physical therapy, orthotics, and ice to reduce inflammation and further damage. Severe tendon injuries, such as a tendon rupture, may require surgery in order to repair the tendon.

  • According to Dr. Ambroziak of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, bursitis is where "the “fat pad” of the heel exhibits redness and swelling from inflammation of the small fluid-filled sac inside the heel, called the bursa. The bursa, which protects the heel from friction, can become inflamed from repetitive motion or irritation from shoes. In the case of bursitis, the heel and the toes are most often affected. Treatment may include resting the foot, ice and anti-inflammatory drug therapy, padding and corticosteroid injections to reduce the inflammation and relieve pain. Surgery may be necessary if conservative methods do not provide relief."

  • The fourth, and least common cause of heel pain is nerve pain. This is usually indicated by a burning or electrical sensation in the foot, stemming from the heel. With all forms of heel pain, it is highly encouraged to consult with podiatrist in order to accurately diagnose the cause, but this is especially important when related to nerve pain due to the frequency of misdiagnosis.

We specialize in all foot and ankle issues so if you're experiencing heel pain or want to know more, give us a call today to schedule an appointment or send us a message!


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