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Heel Pain: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

What causes heel pain?

Heel pain has a variety of causes but plantar fasciitis is the most common one. Heel pain has a variety of causes but plantar fasciitis is the most common one.

Heel pain is most often caused by plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis or heel spur syndrome is the tissue swelling over the sole of the foot.

The other causes of heel pain include

  • Vitamin D deficiency causing weak muscles of the leg and foot
  • Weakness of the calf muscle due to inactivity; this causes swelling of the tail of the muscle at the heels
  • Stress fracture (due to very long marches, walks over uneven areas)
  • Arthritis (wear and tear of ankle joint)
  • Achilles tendonitis (swelling of a muscle at the ball of the feet)
  • Trapped nerve (compression of the small nerve)
  • Cyst (a type of swelling)
  • Peripheral vascular disease (narrowing of blood vessels supplying the heel)
  • Sever’s disease (occurs in children due to injury to the growth plate of the heel bone)
  • Blister
  • Vigorous physical activity
  • Calcaneal apophysitis (the center of the heel bone is irritated due to new shoes or high athletic activity)
  • Bursitis (inflammation of a sac that lines many joints)
  • Pump bump (abnormal bony growth at the back of the heel)
  • Prolonged standing
  • Tumor
  • Stone bruise

How is heel pain treated?

Mostly, heel pain resolves on its own with proper care and rest. Treatment depends on the causes of heel pain. The most common treatment regimens include

  • Applying an ice pack to the affected area several times a day
  • Temporary rest from activities
  • Using properly fitting shoes
  • Using heel pads and heel cushions (especially silicon insoles)
  • Performing stretching exercises in the morning
  • Doing regular physical activity to strengthen leg muscles
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as Tylenol or Motril (ibuprofen)

If these conservative treatments do not reduce the heel pain, then consult the doctor. The doctor might do certain blood tests to check Vitamin D levels and thyroid levels. An X-Ray may be done to rule out stress fracture or to check for the spur.

For plantar fasciitis, the doctor might recommend using a night splint or a short leg cast or they may inject corticosteroid medication.

The physician might also prescribe physical therapy to strengthen muscles and tendons and to prevent any further injury.

If a need arises, the physician might perform surgery to treat the underlying conditions or to release the trapped nerves.

How can you prevent heel pain?

You cannot prevent all types of heel pain, yet most heel pain can be prevented with the following methods

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Wearing proper-fitting shoes
  • Maintaining proper posture during walking and running
  • Warming up before participating in sports
  • Doing stretching exercises to prevent injury to muscles
  • Massaging the soles after prolonged standing or high-impact activities
  • Giving brief periodic rest to heels when tired 
  • Wearing the right shoes for physical activity

When to call a doctor?

Heel pain may get better with rest and other home remedies. However, if the pain doesn’t go away within two to three weeks, you should immediately contact the doctor. Also, call the physician if you observe the following symptoms

  • Severe pain
  • Sudden onset of pain
  • Redness in the heel
  • Swelling in the heel
  • Walking seems to be impossible
  • See signs of infection


All ___________ have flat feet.
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How long does heel pain last?

The duration of heel pain depends on the cause. Heel pain related to obesity improves gradually with weight loss. The heel pain associated with a specific sport or exercise requires a period of rest. In general, heel pain heals either on its own or with treatment.



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