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Heel pain

Definition

Heel pain usually affects the underside or back of your heel. Although heel pain is rarely a symptom of a serious condition, it can interfere with your normal activities, particularly exercise.

Causes

The most common causes of heel pain are plantar fasciitis (bottom of the heel) and Achilles tendinitis (back of the heel). Causes of heel pain also include:

  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Achilles tendon rupture
  • Bone tumor
  • Bursitis
  • Haglund's deformity
  • Heel spur
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Paget's disease of bone
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Retrocalcaneal bursitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Stress fractures
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome

When to see a doctor

See your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Severe pain and swelling near your heel
  • Inability to bend your foot downward, rise on your toes or walk normally
  • Heel pain with fever, numbness or tingling in your heel
  • Severe heel pain immediately after an injury

Schedule an office visit if you have:

  • Heel pain that continues when you're not walking or standing
  • Heel pain that 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, avoid activities that put 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 provide plenty of support. If you're an athlete, choose shoes appropriate for your sport, and replace them regularly.
  • Foot supports. Heel cups or wedges that you buy in the drugstore often provide relief. Custom-made orthotics usually aren't needed for heel problems.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications. Aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) can reduce inflammation and pain.

Last updated: February 11th, 2016

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