Heel injuries can be acute, meaning they have happened suddenly or are acutely painful. Or they can chronic, occurring gradually over time or result from an initial acute injury which has not healed properly. The most common causes of pain under the heel are Plantar Fasciitis and Bruised Heel whilst pain at the back of the heel in children is more likely to be Sever's disease. Select from the injuries below or if you do not know what your injury is then visited our symptom checker, or click on any of the symptoms below to view injuries with that particular symptom.
Plantar fasciitis is probably the most common cause of pain under the heel. Symptoms come on gradually and are often worse first thing in the morning, but ease a little when the foot is warmed up. Here we explain everything you need to know about curing Plantar Fasciitis including treatment, taping, exercises, sports massage and more.
A bruised heel, also known and Policeman's Heel is a common cause of heel pain. It is usually caused by overuse, resulting in damage to the soft tissues or bone, but can occur suddenly from a heavy landing or impact. We explain the causes and treatment including taping to help you recover in the shortest possible time.
Sever's disease is mainly a cause of heel pain in kids affecting active children aged 8 to 15 years old. Pain at the back of the heel from overuse that if managed correctly, is something the young athlete should grow out of. Rest is an essential part of treatment along with ice or cold therapy and managing training loads.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition of the foot caused by pressure on the posterior tibial nerve as it passes along a passage called the tarsal tunnel just below the bony bit on the inside of the ankle causing a burning pain in the foot along with pins and needles and pain radiating in the arch of the foot.
A stress fracture of the calcaneus is a hairline fracture of the big heel bone and is usually caused by overuse. It is common in soldiers who march long distances and road runners. Treatment involves resting for 6 to 8 weeks followed by a gradual return to full training and fitness.
A heel spur is a hooked bony growth protruding from the calcaneus or heel bone. It often occurs alongside plantar fasciitis, and as such the two conditions are often confused, however they are not the same. Treatment involves rest, reducing symptoms with ice or cold therapy, stretching and correcting and biomechanical problems.
A broken heel or fractured calcaneus bone is usually caused by falling or jumping from a height resulting in severe heel pain. It can also occur from road accidents or bike accidents. It is also possible for the calcaneus or heel bone to suffer a stress fracture in athletes such as long-distance runners which may come on more gradually.
Lateral plantar nerve entrapment causes pain radiating to the inner, lower heel and inner ankle area.
Heel pain symptoms
Click on the symptoms below to view a list of injuries which have that particular symptom.
Pain under the heel - the two most common causes are plantar fasciitis and bruised heel. Both are over use injuries and come on gradually. With plantar fasciitis the pain is worse in the morning and may radiate into the foot. A bruised heel gets worse with use and is more likely to be localised under the heel.
Back of heel pain - pain at the back of the heel in young athletes is likely to be Sever's disease. Insertional achilles tendonitis and achillies bursitis are more common in older athletes, particularly runners.
Gradual onset heel pain occurs over a period of time. Athletes may not be able to pinpoint the exact time of injury and can have continued to train with niggling discomfort. These injuries are most likely from overuse with plantar fasciitis and bruised heel being the most common although a stress fracture of the calcaneus should be considered.
Foot arch pain - pain under the arch of the foot can be caused by a number of injuries. Gradual onset is most commonly plantar fasciitis although nerve entrapments and stress fractures can also result in arch pain. Sudden onset can be a strain or tear of the foot arch.
Heel pain in the morning - this is a common symptom of heel pain linked to the plantar fascia or arch ligament. Over night the fascia tightens up causing pain at the insertion of the heel. As the tissues warm up the pain goes often to return later.
Swollen heel - a small localised swelling at the back of the foot may be achilles bursitis. If the swelling is sudden onset as a result of trauma or a fall then fractures should be considered. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
View all foot & heel symptoms
When should I see a doctor?
When should you see a doctor with your foot pain? Often people do not want to bother their GP or A & E department but if you have any of the following symptoms you should seek further medical assistance.
- Severe pain, especially on walking
- Severe swelling (oedema)
- Altered sensation in the foot – such as a feeling of “pins and needles” (paresthesia) or a “loss of feeling” (anaesthesia) in the foot.
- Unable to complete normal daily activities after the initial 72 hours.
Further medical assistance can be sought through either your local GP or a private clinician such as a podiatrist, physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath or chiropractor. If you have followed the P.R.I.C.E. principles (see below) and are still unable to walk after 72 hours or still have severe pain that is not subsiding after the first 72 hours you should visit your local A&E department for further assessment.
Secondly, if you have applied for P.R.I.C.E. principles and still have weakness that lasts a long time (more than 2 weeks) or have ongoing discomfort in your foot or heel, you are highly recommended to seek advice from a specialist expert - such as a podiatrist or physiotherapist, osteopath, or chiropractor - who can provide you with advice and an appropriate and effective recovery and rehabilitation program.