Heel pain 

Introduction 

Heel pain

Find out the causes and symptoms of heel pain and the treatments available, including what you can do to prevent or alleviate it.

Media last reviewed: 14/11/2013

Next review due: 14/11/2015

Who is affected?

Heel pain is a common foot condition. It is estimated that about one in 10 people will have at least one episode of heel pain at some point in their life.

People who jog or run regularly, and older adults between 40-60 years of age, are the two main groups affected by heel pain.

Foot health

How to keep your feet healthy, choose the right sports shoes and what to do if you have smelly feet

Heel pain is a common foot condition. It is usually felt as an intense pain when using the affected heel.

Heel pain usually builds up gradually and gets worse over time. The pain is often severe and occurs when you place weight on the heel.

In most cases only one heel is affected, although estimates suggest around a third of people have pain in both heels.

The pain is usually worse first thing in the morning, or when you first take a step after a period of inactivity. After walking the pain usually improves, but often gets worse again after walking or standing for a long time.

Some people may limp or develop an abnormal walking style as they try to avoid placing weight on the affected heel.

What causes heel pain?

Most cases of heel pain are caused when a band of tissue in the foot, known as the plantar fascia, becomes damage and thickened.

Plantar fasciitis is the medical term for the thickening of the plantar fascia.

The plantar fascia

The plantar fascia is a tough and flexible band of tissue that runs under the sole of the foot. It connects the heel bone with the bones of the foot, and acts as a kind of shock absorber to the foot.

Sudden damage, or damage that occurs over many months or years, can cause tiny tears (microtears) to develop inside the tissue of the plantar fascia. This can cause the plantar fascia to thicken, resulting in heel pain.

The surrounding tissue and the heel bone can also sometimes become inflamed.

Read more about the causes of heel pain.

Diagnosis

In most cases, your GP or a podiatrist (a specialist in foot problems and foot care) should be able to diagnose the cause of your heel pain by:

  • asking about your symptoms and medical history
  • examining your heel and foot

Read more about how heel pain is diagnosed.

Treating heel pain

There are a number of treatments that can help relieve heel pain and speed up your recovery. These include:

  • resting your heel – try to avoid walking long distances and standing for long periods
  • regular stretching – stretching your calf muscles and plantar fascia
  • pain relief – using an icepack on the affected heel and taking painkillers, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • wearing good-fitting shoes that support and cushion your foot – running shoes are particularly useful
  • using supportive devices such as orthoses (rigid supports you put inside your shoe) or strapping

Around four out of five cases of heel pain resolve within a year. However, having heel pain for this length of time can often be frustrating and painful.

In around one in 20 cases, the above treatments are not enough and surgery may be recommended to release the plantar fascia. 

Read more about treating heel pain.

Preventing heel pain

Being overweight can place excess pressure and strain on your feet, particularly on your heels. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight by combining regular exercise with a healthy balanced diet can be beneficial for your feet.

Wearing appropriate footwear is also important. Ideally, you should wear shoes with a low to moderate heel that supports and cushions your arches and heels. Avoid wearing shoes with no heels.

Read more about preventing heel pain.

Page last reviewed: 17/10/2012

Next review due: 17/10/2014

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 1272 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Comments

The 30 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

bongo herts said on 04 July 2014

I have had Guillame Barre Syndrome for 45 years and walk
with a walking stick.I have limited mobility and have had many falls over the years and in 1993 broke my right ankle
which resulted in being in plaster for 6 weeks and confined to a wheelchair. Luckily I lived in a bungalow. Lately I have
had a weird pain under my left heel (bear in mind I have had no feeling in my feet for years). Was at Doctor today and she said I might have osteoarthritis and I am having a knee xray on Monday. Any ideas what could this feeling be.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

postyjon said on 27 June 2014

All or most of these comments are for PF but I suffer from "Postman's Heel" which is Plantar Calcaneal Bursitis and though connected (in a way) to PF is slightly different but as painful with very similar symptons and causes. Even my Doctor said it was PF but I now know different. Tried Ibubrophen and Paracetamol (at the same time) and have yet to feel any relief. Last time it was this severe I had a steroid injection directly into the heel and after a week began to feel an improvement. Now it's back. The injection was VERY painful so do I repeat it or try other things . I am now wearing cushioned heel insoles and resting as much as my job and wife will allow!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Rahul jangir said on 27 May 2014

there are various symptoms of heel pain as we see in everyday life like severe inflammation of the heels, difficult to move the joints due to sudden pain and swelling and heel spur and many more as seen on http://feetcareguide.com/heel-pain-symptoms/the-noticeable-symptoms-of-heel-pain/

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Fifi3006 said on 19 January 2014

Hi Lorcan k,
I have exactly the same symptoms as you and am only 2 years younger. I have been treated with Severus disease,
Active children between 8-15 the best thing to do is rest ( but being like me you probably can't !) stretch and apply ice onto your heel. Here is a link it is worth looking at

http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/sport-injuries/foot-heel-pain/severs-disease

Hope this helps!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Lorcan K said on 14 January 2014

I'm 13 and I've had a heel pain for quite a while it reckon over 6 months and when I do things like running/football/athletics which I do 3-5 times a week, most of the time it causes my left heel to hurt quite bad. This usually happens in the middle of my sport but if I were to run again, with the heel hurting, it wouldn't hurt as much, but then at the end of something like a sprint it would hurt quite bad. Then when I get home I can barely walk properly. It doesn't seem like a serious injury but I'm just curious and a bit worried as it has been like this for a while and I'd love it if I could figure a way to stop it

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

devonroo said on 30 November 2013

Just over a week ago I suddenly started getting pain in my foot. It was so bad some mornings that I could hardly walk on it. The more I walked on it the easier it seemed to get but then as soon as I had sat down for a while, again it became extremely painful to walk on. I went to the doctor who prescribed Volterol and said to come back in a couple of weeks if it didn't improve. She kind of suggested it was Arthritis or associated with a bunion I have. I started using the gel but by itself it didn't appear to help. I decided to look on the internet to check out whether it could be something else. I came across various sites that suggested my pain was due to PF and I found a lot of exercises and massages to do to help improve the condition. Literally within 2 days of regular massage and exercising the foot using the gel, the pain virtually disappeared. I have just been away for the weekend and have managed to walk around perfectly normally. Tonight I have a little bit of pain in my foot, probably due to the amount of walking I have done over the weekend, but will massage it before I go to bed and hopefully it will be fine tomorrow. If you think you have this condition I urge you to search the various massages and exercises they recommend and within days hopefully your pain will go or at least be not as bad. Good luck.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Porra said on 01 November 2013

Two years ago getting off a train with a heavy rucksack, I neglected to "mind the gap", and injured my left foot. My job includes a lot of standing - I am on my feet from the time I leave home at 6:30 until returning at about 8pm, excluding an hour for tea breaks and lunch, up to six days a week. Over the course of the first year, my foot got steadily worse and eventually I ended up in the A&E as I was in excruciating pain. They prescribed Voltarol gel and told me to see my GP. I did a lot of reading to try and self-diagnose (came up with Plantar Fasciitis), before going to see my GP, who gave me a cursory examination, prescribed some more Voltarol and handed me a prescription to go for an X-Ray if I wanted to, and told me to lose some weight. I popped into the chemist and went for an X-Ray. When I called my GP's office, I was informed that there was nothing wrong with me. I have now been taking Voltarol for over a year - it works (probably poisoning my system too) straight for about 3-4 hours after each application. I frequently wake up at night in pain and have to apply Voltarol again. I have bought eight pairs of shoes and trainers in as many months this year (ranging from £14 to £120), and spent between £1 and £85 a pop on orthoses. I have now developed PF in my right foot too from over-favouring it, along with a myriad of other problems in other parts of my feet that had never given me any grief before.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Edzel said on 15 August 2013

I've had pain in my left heel for several months and thought it was a combination of wearing the wrong shoes (flat pumps - I don't do heels!) and being overweight (87kilos at five foot five) and that I would have to live with it... Im 54 but hobble at times as i am nearer 90! I've joined a gym to address the weight problem, but but the heel pain is causing me grief so I did a google search for heel pain and found this site. It's very helpful and I'm hopeful that losing the weight will help, along with the other suggestions (insoles and rolling a jar underneath etc). I will report back and let you know how I get on.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Maxine P said on 25 September 2012

Hi everyone. I've had PF in both feet since June this year. I've never had problems with my feet before so waking up one morning with pain on walking first thing was a shock. I hobble around for a few minutes before my feet get better. My feet ache during the day & especailly when I've been still for a while. Usually this happens at home & especially after a long drive. It's embarrassing hobbling from the car to the shop or visiting relatives. I have to explain myself a lot why I hobble. My Dr was useless & my local hospital sent me a letter saying I don't meet their criteria for treatment! Laughable! So, I've been looking on the net for help. Good running shoes help a lot but Im a glam woman & don't want to wear trainers allday eveeryday!!! I'm going to try some insoles next & rolling my feet over a jam jar.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Billychris said on 29 August 2012

Had pain in heel of left foot. After reading all the advice on the internet went off to local well known chemist to get some heel cushions. They were in the sports section and cost at least £20 for a pair. I decided to have a wander round and found some memory foam heel cushions in one of the bargain shops ,only cost me a £1 for a packet that contained two heel cushions.
I bought 2 packets and inserted 3 of the heel cushions in my shoe ( they even have some sticky tape on the bottom).I reckon they must have raised my heel about a 1/4 of an inch.Straight away I noticed the pain wasn't as bad ,for about a week I took a couple of Ibuprofen liquid capsules every morning.Gradually the pain got less and less until eventually I had none..If I dont fit heel cushions then I notice the pain coming back.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

mmm2011 said on 25 July 2012

I suffered from PF for months and used it as an excuse not to get up and take exercise. I first saw a podiatrist who said I needed to get some custom made orthotic insoles made at a cost of £300 (including the appointment). Needless to say this came as a shock so I did a lot of research and found out I could buy some "off the shelf" insoles which work just as well. I took a 3 pronged approach to relieving the pain.. Firstly lots of calf stretching then rolling a cold can under my arch then wearing mt Orthotic Insoles (there are a few brands available so just shop around). I now have almost now pain from PF and life is sooooo much better!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Beautypam said on 03 July 2012

Ive had pain in both my heels for a couple of months now. There is nothing to see or feel, but touching just where the flat of my heel joins my instep is very sore, more so on the right side. When I get up either from bed or from sitting for a while, the pain runs down the outside of my foot and along my heel, but goes when I walk about. I'm actually hobbling though for a good few minutes. Does this sound like plantar fasciitis to you. Is there any point seeing a doctor?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Mezorenz said on 13 June 2012

I have had bilateral PF for more than two years brought on by flat feet and tight calves. My left foot took about 18 months to get to a point where i can be satisfied but my right is plagued with scar tissue, small fibromas and cysts in my medial aponeurosis, this is due to being I'll informed and misguided by doctors so I walked and limped around on it for six months before first getting orthotics. You can even hear it crunch and click when i massage. BUPA took ultrasound and MRI but concluded the sources of my unbearable pain are neither targetable for injections or worth surgically removing. I have changed orthotics more than six times but the result is the same. Applied pressure to them is like being stabbed. Then for no apparent reason 8 weeks ago I felt a tear in my right PF. After getting more conflicting advice from my Podiatrist and the NHS as to a recovery plan I can barely walk around the house yet my employer and GP keep encouraging me to go to work despite my constant pain and gradual slide into a depression. I have even considered cutting my foot off. I have been in physio for 7 months and when I went back to see them they said it snapped almost certainly as a result of becoming tight/weak due to the extensive scar tissue. How do I explain to people that my medial aponeurosis is like a string of beads? Walking is agony and using a foot roller is like rubbing a cobble road against a radiator. It all feels hopeless and I pray for a single day without pain. I cannot contribute at home or care for my daughter and neither my company or the health service could care less.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Rjkirk said on 31 May 2012

Having suffered for about 2 years thinking it was just old age, I went to a Podiatrist in Seaford, East Sussex, took her 2 minutes to diagnose the problem, now having treatment and progress being made. Best thing is, all these old and wise doctors dismissed it, she was newly qualified, but on the ball!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

gepuk2001 said on 07 May 2012

Hello all, tried to post earlier, it dissappeared, try again in fewer words.

My Doctor told me to get a JAR, Jam, Vineger, or Milk bottle and take Sock/s off and roll between heel and toes for approx 15 mins everyday, can take awhile, mine took a few weeks now feel 98% better, now near pain free. Get up after sleep/rest virtually no pain, even at work etc.

Repor back if it works, and let others know.

Gepuk2001

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

gepuk2001 said on 07 May 2012

Hello all, first post here.

Went to my Doctors a few weeks ago, April 2012.

Pains in both my feet, first doctor told me to try In-Soles, bought two types, long and short.
My work involves alot of walking, and have had 38yrs of walking jobs, besides the other 16years being a kid, so my feet have had some wear and tear.

Insoles helped, though had to go back as my feet where still hurting.

Second Doctor gave me the answer, thought it was a Daft idea at first, but it works.

Get a Glass Milk bottle, or a medium sized Jam jar, or vinegar Jar. Place it on the floor, take sock/s off and for 15 minutes a day for as long as it takes run your feet across the JAR from heel to toe. (Dip in between)

It only took a few weeks for mine to improve 95%, my right was worse than my left, but hardly feel it now, or when at work, and in the morning its hardly there, before the pain in the morning, or when I rested was fairly bad and annoying, but nearly free from it.

I Hope this helps, please report back here and spread the message if it works for you, remember, it can take a few months my Doctor said, so persevere.

Gepuk2001

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

kbheel said on 27 April 2012

I was just readig on other sections here of the various things that can cause heel pain, use their search bar.

Hello heel pain suffers, another one here joins the club! I started having pain in y heel months ago! Ignored it hoping it would go away only to find it getting worse. So having foot problems with my left foot decided to get some good foot gel soles and instead found these ones for back heel relief.

The pain would get worse while walking but hurt also when not. It does not hurt more at any special time and can start to hurt while sitting. It gets hard to walk with out shoes.

The things worked and the pain went away. Now its again returning. I am wondering if its just needing to change for new soles but gave in and set up an appt to see my doctor.

Now I am starting to get a sharp pain in my leg too.

I have a broken toe that was never found in a mri search 20 yrs ago and wondering if that could be the cause. Will keep everyone posted and good luck to each individuals case in finding relief.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

dogwalker said on 25 April 2012

Hi all fellow 'suffers'. I know this condition or pain in the heel is nothing in comparison to other conditions. Here comes the but ... I began to have low level pain last November and took over the counter anti inflammory pain relief. By Dec had been to the Doctors and he gave me Naprosyn, just been again am taking full recommended dose daily and the pain is still .. well extremely painful.... most of the time, continue to do 'stretches', ice and have purchased heel cushions and this week shoe inserts. Can't believe how heel pain can affect your working and home life ... has anyone got any other suggestions .. thank you for reading.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

James Bracknell said on 23 April 2012

I thought I would share my thoughts on this topic, I have completed the London marathon. I have been suffering from plantar fascistis for around 1 year now. I have tried everything under the sun apart from surgery!

Tried day splints, night splints, hydrocortisone injection (which was agony!). I went to a private podiatrist who charged me an absolute fortune (hundreds of pounds) for x-rays and custom orthotics which were impossible to run in and just aggravated the condition.

I have tried all the stretching exercises recommend to me by a private physiotherapist, who also charged me a fortune for massage, video taping me on the treadmill, taping my plantar fascia with this special sports tap and ultra sound!

I was literally going to give up my love for running as I thought if all these experts cant help me so I haven’t got a chance in the world. In desperation I bought something off the internet, I don’t want to mention the url incase this post sounds like a sales post which its not. But they were cheap and I used these 3/4 length insoles in my office shoes and the sports insoles in my running shoes. I’m sure they are other brands out there so I would recommend doing your research but this brand and these insoles worked for me. What really gets me is that I have spent so much money with so many people and all I need today was spent £50 odd quid on two pairs of insoles to stop the pain.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

allnights said on 15 March 2012

Oh the Vasyli Insoles are nice but a bit weird. Though after two weeks I had an old pain in feet resurface and was unable to walk at all so left them out of the equation for couple weeks til pain disappeared.

Now back in them and keeping fingers crossed. They are weird as at first it feels like they are going to hurt a great deal. But you can actually walk a litlte easier in them.

However the one thing I have been experiencing I am currently looking into, bearing in mind I do not go far at all, is I get a great deal of aching leg muscles. Possibly due to the fact I am using muscles that have not been used in like 10 years or more and that is what I am trying to find out.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

allnights said on 15 March 2012

I say again...

Endoscopic Plantar Fasciotomy is NOT performed n the UK! I have not found it and NHS Podiatrist states the procedure is NOT entertained here.

BOFAS perform a procedure whereby they do some surgical procedure on your calf muscle, for plantar fasciitis, but I know nothing about this and only came across it recently.

Up until then I was under the impression, and told by various NHS Doctors, there is NO surgery in the UK.

I would like to know more about the one in Russia that was mentioned though. Laser Surgery would seem like the obvious route for this now that I think about it logically.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

allnights said on 15 March 2012

I have a series of articles by the American National Institute of Health on the subject.

I have also come across the British Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society or BOFAS. Though at £225 for a first consultation, including X-RAYS they say, which are pointless it is kind of expensive. Especislly when you do not have £225!! LOL. They do not perform the Endoscopic Plantar Fasciotomy either and I understand it is a little risky. Though in America by the time they have suffered a year they are begging for the operation.

Also this that have recovered still have nightmares about suffering and one lady will rather cycle and sit, than walk and stand?!

Told me GP recently I would happily have my feet removed if they could provide robotic ones!

Good books are...

Injury Afoot by Patrick Hafner, you will sooo realte to the author and his case studies.

My links to the National Institute of Health came from the book..

Plantar Fasciitis by the Icon Group.

As for other causes of heel pain, ermm well there aren't any as far as I know. Tweleve years of researching this and I do not know of any. I first thought I had Morton's Neuroma as I get a pain on dorsal side of foot, along largest, or first, metatarsal ray bone, I think it is called. Argued with GPs for years as no one ever explained it completely.

I was a victim of people with a little knowledge of something. They knew about flat feet but no one mentioned high arches. If I had been told about this I could have done something about it as I had the finacnes too once, not any more?! I did not want to pay for a trip to America for two people, indefinately and then an opertaion for something I might not have! So MRIs would have been necassary. Could have been an expensive waste of time.

Even a private chiropractor failed to realise my back, hip and knee pain was down to my Plantar fasciitis?! He wanted £600 and that was after I acquired special deal on forst two appointments and X-Ray!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

allnights said on 15 March 2012

Ahh hello all. Failed to be notified of the comments.

Thank you for them by the way.

Well I have been doing some research but first to answer a few people...

Yes Glenpool it can be a viscious circle and I empahise, though in my case I am not, and never have been, overweight. If I allowed myself to do that it would not be long before I was wheelchair bound.

Someone wanted reassurances, well for the most part the majority do seem to heel, I can not emphaisixe enough about the stretching, calf, achilles and plantar fasciitis. Also use Ice.

Mine is pretty unique from what I can discover and you should not, I HOPE, end up as I have.

Now Dee yes it does certainly sound like a classic case of PF and in all honesty mine does not do that but everything I read states that. But mine are with high arches (pes cavus) and not flat feet.

Yes there other other foot conditions that can, I guess, lead to it or be a side affect of it. Like Metatarsalgia (ball of foot pain which I have), Morton's Toe and Achilles Tendonitis (which I also have not sure about Morton's Toe as yet but do have an odd toe).

It stands to reason that as the plantar fascia, achilles tendon and calf is all intricately connected that should you have it, as I have, a very long time then stresses on these areas can produce problems. This is also true of the hip, knee and back for plantar fasciitis as I now discover. SO after years feeling odd mentioning all this to GPs with one young one stating 'I put these down to your funnyisms' I developed a complex where I felt like a hypochondriac, cheers NHS.

As I also state be wary too as the NHS policy is for their Podiatry Department NOT to treat between the ages of 16 and 65, the working yesrs so makes perfect sense?! NOT!

As for not stating it is not proven, whoa TIGER?!?! Plantar Fasciitis can be proven by MRI and the images show up the areas of inflammation.

...

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

allnights said on 19 February 2012

Well I have suffered from Plantar fasciitis in both feet for 12 years!

4 Physios
2 Rheumatologists
2 Orhtopaedics
2 Podiatrists
1 Pain Management
Foam Inserts (well big blocks)
Corticosteroid Injection
Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy
Orthotic Inserts, (too hard and painful)

For first time in 12 years just been given a Night Splint, Vasyli + Dananberg Signature Series Insoles and another load of exercises I have to do for a year!!

Two X-Rays is all that has been done thus far. No MRI.

To make matters worse it seems my back, knee and hip pain I have been attending Orthopaedics about for last several years is down to the PF?!?! Nice one. I would not mind but that latter information came out of a brilliant little book on the subject!

Last appointment, 8th Feb 2012, was told I had very high arches?!?! I have heard many time 'well you do not have flat feet' but never knew about high arches.

Also my plantar fascia will get shorter and shorter until I can not walk anymore, I was then discharged?!

Go figure

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

User646289 said on 17 February 2012

None of the NHS recommended treatments helped my Plantar Faciitis condition and the pain increased to a level which affected my life style and became debilitating. My salvation came when I found a clinic in Russia which provided me with active physiotherapy care using a combination of low level laser, magneto therapy and ultrasound. These treatments given over a three month period, reduced scar tissue with 5-7 minutes per day laser application followed by 15 minutes magneto therapy to reduce inflammation. The result was less pressure on the capillaries giving increased nutrient flow to the injured heel area which, stimulated by ultrasound, delivered more proteins to the damaged collagen band and cured my PF condition. Nobody in the UK health service seems interested because 'it's not proven' (I quote). But I'm back into power walking each morning at the age of 74. QED

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

salvador1 said on 15 February 2012

I treated it in one foot with acupuncture and massage together with exercises. Lo and behold just as this foot was cured it arrived in the other foot - very depressing and financially crippling.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Glennpool said on 09 February 2012

I also have this condition. Somedays my heel feels as though I am stamping on tent pegs. The pain is so intense it seems to come out of my ear. When I get out of bed,the car or after I have been sitting for short periods are the worst. I can't run anymore and am now putting on weight. Vicious circle.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

dee41 said on 06 December 2011

i have had heal pain for about 4 month now its as if my heal is bruiszsed its worse in moring and after i have been sitting for a while it even hurts when im sitting do u think this is what i have

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Chris Ruddle said on 12 September 2011

1 out of 5 cases don't resolve in a year. (That's 4 in 20).
1 in 20 lead to surgery. So what happens to the other 3 in 20 that haven't resolved and don't qualify for surgery? Do they just spend the rest of their lives with a really painful limp? Please clarify, as we're at the 'waiting a year and about to go back to the doctor) stage. Need some reassurance.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

1kestrel said on 11 September 2011

As not all heel pains are caused by plantar fasciitis , could we have some information on other causes for heel pain too?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Choosing the right sports shoes

Sports shoes are probably the most important piece of fitness equipment you’ll buy. Here's how to choose the right pair

Sports injuries

Regular sports and exercise provide health benefits, but they can occasionally cause injuries