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Heel pain

Overview of heel pain

Heel pain, or pain on the bottom and back of the foot, can be the result of several conditions. It may be caused by an injury to the heel bone, tendonitis, arthritis, or plantar fasciitis, and from overuse or strain on the foot from running long distances or wearing high-heeled or ill-fitting shoes.

If you’re experiencing heel pain, you don’t have to live with the discomfort. At Dignity Health, your orthopedic doctor will assess your condition and provide you with personalized care.

To learn more about your treatment options, Find a Doctor near you.


Besides pain in and around the heel, you may notice other symptoms, depending on the cause:

  • Pain that gets worse in the early mornings when you first get out of bed, or after you have been sitting still for a while
  • Pain that increases over time
  • Pain that radiates across the arch of your foot or gets worse when you flex your foot
  • Swelling or warmth in the heel area
  • Pain in the Achilles tendon (back of the heel and lower ankle)
  • Cracking sound when flexing the foot
  • Stiffness
  • Limited range of motion
  • Pain in the calf muscles when running or walking


The most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis, a condition that results from irritation and inflammation in the tissue (fascia), which connects the heel with the toes.

Other potential causes of heel pain include:

  • Gout
  • Arthritis in the heel
  • Some congenital disabilities (such as Haglund’s deformity)
  • Overuse
  • Trapped or pinched nerves
  • Tendonitis in the Achilles tendon or other tendons
  • Calcaneal apophysitis (irritation in the heel bone due to activity)
  • Bursitis (inflammation of the fluid sacs which cushion your bones)
  • Infection
  • Bruises (such as those caused by stepping on small stones or walking barefoot over sharp objects or children’s toys)
  • Heel spurs (an abnormal bony growth where the fascia attach to the heel caused by repetitive strain, obesity, or over-training in runners and joggers)
  • Posterior calcaneal exostosis, or “pump bump” (common in women who wear high-heeled shoes)
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Bone tumors
  • Fractures of the heel bone or foot bones

Risk factors

Some factors that can increase your risk of heel pain are:

  • Having flat or arched feet
  • Wearing improperly fitted or high-heeled shoes regularly
  • Long-distance running or other repetitive motion of the feet
  • Overuse of the ankle
  • High-impact sports such as soccer, dance, football, etc.
  • Being overweight or obese


While heel pain is often the result of things you can’t control, like the shape of your arches, there are things you can do to reduce your risk and prevent heel pain, such as:

  • Wearing appropriate footwear for sporting activities
  • Avoiding wearing shoes that are too tight or have high heels, if possible
  • Regularly replacing shoes worn during athletic activities such as running
  • Resting injuries and not “training through” pain or overextending
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.