What is heel pain?
Heel pain can be caused by many different things. The most common pain is felt either behind the heel or under it. You may find it quite painful at times, but it should get better in a short period. In some rarer cases, the heel pain can become a long-term (chronic) problem.
The heel is prone to become painful because of the impact it takes when your foot hits the ground when walking. It is likely that your discomfort is from inflammation or stress on the area, so resting and avoiding activities, such as running, will usually be all that is needed for the pain to get better.
Pain around heel is also common if you have suffered an injury or fracture to your foot. If you think that this is the case, you should seek medical help. When the initial injury is healed, the pain you are feeling should no longer be a problem. We will cover more causes of heel pain later on.
Are certain people more susceptible to heal pain?
Heel pain can affect people of all ages. However, as you get older, you’re more likely to experience it because of normal day-to-day wear and tear. Regular impact on the area of the heel, from activities such as running and other sports, can cause you to have issues with your feet. You may find that wearing cushioning insoles when participating in sport can help relieve the pain.
Standing for long periods, wearing unsuitable footwear or issues with way that you walk could all lead to you experiencing heel pain at some point too.
What can heal pain be a symptom of?
Some of the most common causes of heel pain include:
The plantar fascia is a ligament that goes from the heel bone (calcaneum) to the ball of your foot. If this ligament is stressed it can become inflamed, leading to pain in the heel or under the foot. If the pain is bad after resting, and you have discomfort lifting your toes up off the floor, this could be the issue.
Achilles tendonitis is a long-term condition where the Achilles tendon becomes damaged. It can happen when too much pressure is applied to the tendon, causing small tears. These tears do no repair properly and can cause the tendon to become thicker, causing tenderness at the back of your heel and long the Achilles tendon. It can sometimes also cause cramp in your calf muscles.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is caused when a nerve in the back of the foot becomes pinched or trapped. Signs include tingling or numbness.
Severs disease is a common cause of heel pain in athletes, where the repetitive impact or overuse of the heel bone leads to pain in the foot.
This causes pain and inflammation in your joints. If your heel is stiff and swollen and you find it difficult to move your foot, it could be a sign of arthritis.
There are a number of other things that could be the cause of the heel pain you have. This is not an extensive list, but can include:
- Heel bursitis - inflammation of the back of the heel
- Stress fracture - a fracture of a foot bone due to repetitive stress or impact
- Heel spurs - excessive rubbing on the bone results in bone spurs, which is a calcium deposit on the underside of the heel bone. This is commonly associated with flat feet.
- Bruising of the bone
- Problems with the way that you walk
Our doctors will be able to discuss your symptoms with you fully. This will help them to identify the cause of the problem and get the right treatment for you.
What should you do if you have heel pain?
If you believe you may have an underlying condition that’s causing your heel pain, or the pain is not going away, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.
If you have any of the following, you should go to A&E:
- Your foot is not a normal shape
- You have severe pain after an injury – this is a sign something could be broken
- You heard a snapping, popping or grinding noise when the injury happened
- If you are struggling to move your ankle or foot
Treating heel pain at home
There are some home remedies for heel pain that you can try to see if they resolve the problem:
- Apply an ice pack regularly
- Avoid strenuous activity or standing for long periods
- Take ibuprofen or paracetamol
- Wear well-fitting shoes
Specialist foot treatment
If your symptoms don’t improve or if you are suffering from heel pain on a long-term basis, you may need a referral to a foot specialist, such as a podiatrist or chiropodist, or to a physiotherapist, who will recommend the right treatment. This could include:
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications
- Steroid injections
- Physiotherapy exercises
- Insoles, or orthopedic shoes
At Push Doctor, you can see a GP online, on any device while at home, work or even on the go, and at a time that is convenient for you. They can look at your heel over a video consultation, listen to your symptoms and suggest the right treatment to get you back up on your feet as quickly as possible, or refer you where necessary.