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Heel pain

There are lots of causes of heel pain. You can usually ease the pain yourself. But see a GP if the pain does not improve.

How to ease heel pain yourself

If you see a GP, they'll usually suggest you try these things:

Do

  • rest and raise your heel when you can
  • put an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas) in a towel on your heel for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
  • wear wide comfortable shoes with a low heel and soft sole
  • use soft insoles or heel pads in your shoes
  • wrap a bandage around your heel and ankle to support it
  • try regular gentle stretching exercises
  • take paracetamol

Don't

  • do not take ibuprofen for the first 48 hours after an injury
  • do not walk or stand for long periods
  • do not wear high heels or tight pointy shoes

How to do stretching exercises for heel pain

Media last reviewed: 17 April 2019
Media review due: 17 April 2022

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • the best painkiller to take
  • insoles and pads for your shoes
  • treatments for common skin problems
  • if you need to see a GP

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • the pain is severe or stopping you doing normal activities
  • the pain is getting worse or keeps coming back
  • the pain has not improved after treating it at home for 2 weeks
  • you have any tingling or loss of sensation in your foot
  • you have diabetes – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes
What we mean by severe pain
Severe pain:
  • always there and so bad it’s hard to think or talk
  • you can’t sleep
  • it’s very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
Moderate pain:
  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress
Mild pain:
  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but doesn’t stop you doing things like going to work

Immediate action required: Go to an urgent treatment centre or A&E if you:

  • have severe pain
  • feel faint, dizzy or sick from the pain
  • have an ankle or foot that has changed shape or is at an odd angle
  • heard a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of injury
  • are not able to walk

These might be signs of a broken heel bone or broken ankle.

Find an urgent treatment centre

What we mean by severe pain
Severe pain:
  • always there and so bad it’s hard to think or talk
  • you can’t sleep
  • it’s very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
Moderate pain:
  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress
Mild pain:
  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but doesn’t stop you doing things like going to work

Common causes of heel pain

Heel pain is often caused by exercising too much or wearing shoes that are too tight.

Your symptoms might also give you an idea of what's causing your heel pain.

Symptoms Possible cause
Sharp pain between your arch and heel, feels worse when you start walking and better when resting, difficulty raising toes off floor plantar fasciitis
Pain in ankle and heel, pain in calf when standing on tiptoes Achilles tendonitis
Redness and swelling, dull aching pain bursitis
Sudden sharp pain, swelling, a popping or snapping sound during the injury, difficulty walking heel fracture or ruptured Achilles tendon
Information:

Do not worry if you're not sure what the problem is.

Follow the advice on this page and see a GP if the pain does not get better in 2 weeks.

You can also read about pain in other areas of your foot.

Page last reviewed: 1 April 2019
Next review due: 1 April 2022