February 20, 2019

Heel pain: Causes, symptoms and treatment

Foot and Ankle

Heel pain is one of the most common problems that affect the foot and ankle. Although your feet can handle a heavy load, too much stress can cause a sore heel. Ignoring a sore heel can cause extreme pain or even a chronic condition that leads to more problems.

What causes heel pain?

  • Pounding your feet on hard surfaces especially during athletic activity
  • Wearing shoes that irritate sensitive tissues
  • Continued stress on the heel after noticing pain

Symptoms of heel pain

  • Pain beneath or behind your heel that builds slowly over time
  • Swelling in the heel
  • Bruising of the heel
  • Heel skin may thicken, get red and swell
  • A bump on the back of the heel that feels tender or warm to the touch
  • Inability to walk normally

Physician examination

To determine how to treat your heel pain, your physician will ask you for a complete medical history, have you describe your symptoms and how the injury occurred and conduct a physical examination.


How do I stop my heel from hurting?

A sore heel will usually get better on its own without surgery.  With enough rest, heel pain will go away. Conditions that cause heel pain fall into two categories: pain beneath the heel and pain behind the heel.

Treatment for pain beneath the heel

  • Stone bruise: If you step on a hard object such as a rock, a bruise may occur on the underside of your heel. You may be able to see discoloration, but the pain will go away with rest.
  • Plantar fasciitis: Too much repetitive activity such as running or jumping, can cause the tissue band connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes to become inflamed. The pain is centered under your heel and can be mild at first but flare up after rest. Exercise, medication or a special heel pad may be necessary to treat this overuse injury.
  • Heel spur: If plantar fasciitis continues without treatment, a heel spur may form where the tissue band connects to your heel. An X-ray may be necessary to diagnose the spur and treatment is similar to plantar fasciitis. Rest and stretching are necessary until pain completely diminishes.

Treatment for pain behind the heel

Increased activity, repetitive motion or inappropriate shoe wear can cause pain behind your heel. Typically, this means you have inflamed the area where the Achilles tendon inserts into the heel bone.

  • Typically rest or a change in activities that caused the pain behind the heel will eliminate heel pain
  • Sometimes you may need to wear open back shoes for a period of time
  • Over the counter pain medication can help reduce swelling and manage heel pain
  • Stretching exercises may be necessary to completely manage the pain and make sure it doesn’t return
  • Icing the heel periodically can help reduce inflammation

Learn more about foot and ankle treatment at OrthoIndy.

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000
Megan Golden

By Megan Golden

Megan is the current Marketing Team Lead at OrthoIndy. Megan graduated from Ball State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising and communications studies minor and has been with OrthoIndy since June 2012.

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