What does heel pain mean?

By November 28, 2021Heel Pain, newsletter

Your feet are designed to carry a lot of weight, but sometimes you can push things too far.  Several fun activities can leave you with heel pain, such as playing sports on a hard surface. Unfortunately, many people tend to ignore heel pain and hope it will go away. They continue to participate in the same activities that caused the pain. This can make it even worse and lead to bigger problems.

When your heel pain starts to interfere with your daily activities, you’ll need to see a specialist to have your condition diagnosed. They’ll also be able to start you on a treatment plan so you can heal.

What is heel pain?

Heel pain is considered any discomfort around the heel or ankle area of your foot. That can include underneath or behind it. There can be different conditions that cause you pain in this area. To find the underlying cause of your heel pain, you’ll need to see a foot specialist.

Common causes of heel pain

Heel pain can be caused by some different activities conditions. Some of the most common causes include:

Heel spur syndrome

This type of heel pain is usually a stabbing pain, and a spur is present. You may also notice some swelling on the bottom of your heel. It is an inflammation of the tissue from your heel to the toes. It begins as irritation and then becomes inflamed and more noticeable pain. People who have problems with their arches are more inclined to suffer heel pain from this condition. If you have overly flat feet or high arched feet and are suffering from heel pain, contact a specialist who can examine you and determine the cause.

Achilles tendinitis

Achilles tendinitis is a result of an injury to the Achilles tendon. This is the tissue on the back of your leg that connects between your calf and heel. It is often the result of overuse, such as an increase in the intensity or duration of an activity like running. Symptoms can include a mild ache, but it can also become more painful if you engage in activities for an extended amount of time. It’s best to have a foot specialist examine you, particularly if the pain is disabling. With proper care and attention, you should be able to heal up this condition, but some more serious cases will require surgery.


Some heel pain can also be the result of bursitis, which is an inflammation of fluid-filled sacs around your bones, tendons and muscles near your joints. While it is more common to have it in the upper body, bursitis can cause heel pain. Symptoms include aches or stiffness, pain in the affected area if moved, and it may appear red and swollen. See a foot specialist if you are unsure or concerned about your pain. The best treatment for this condition is rest. If properly cared for, the pain will go away in a few weeks. However, it is common to have frequent flareups.

Stress fractures

A stress fracture is a tiny crack in your bone. They can be caused by repetitive force to the area or in patients with osteoporosis. They are common in the lower leg and foot because we carry most of our weight there. If you’ve noticed the pain getting worse over time, it could be a stress fracture. You may feel some tenderness in your heel that seems to go away when you are resting. There could also be some swelling. The best way to diagnose a stress fracture is to have an x-ray or bone scan. Depending on the nature and severity of your fracture, you may need a walking boot, brace or even crutches. Most treatments include staying off your feet as much as possible until the condition heals. However, surgery may also be an option.

Haglund’s deformity

If you have chronic inflammation of the heel, you could develop Haglund’s deformity. This is an enlarged bony bump that forms on the back of the heel. Certain footwear can make the pain worse.

Severs disease

Heel pain is not just something that older adults suffer from. Children can get it too. Severs disease affects kids between 7 and 15 years of age. It is caused by overuse and trauma to the growth plates in the heel bone. If your child is complaining of heel pain and they are involved in athletics, it’s a good idea to have a foot specialist examine them.

Risk factors for heel pain

While any activity that puts added pressure or strain on your heel or feet can lead to one of the above conditions, some risk factors mean you’re more likely to develop heel pain. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Foot or ankle arthritis
  • Flat feet
  • High arched feet
  • Exercise or sport involving running and jumping
  • Significant amount of time standing
  • Improper footwear such as lack of arch support or cushion

How to prevent heel pain

If you’ve already experienced some heel pain or one of the above conditions, you’ll need to allow yourself some time to heal.

Preventing further injury to your feet or heels involves keeping the muscles in these areas flexible. It is also important to stretch your feet and heel muscles regularly, especially before engaging in any sports activities or exercise.

However, one of the most critical factors in preventing foot and heel pain is to have proper fitting footwear. You want shoes that provide you with support and comfort. This is especially critical for runners or those involved in very active sports. Custom orthotics are key to helping you find the right footwear for your feet. Custom Orthotics in Ottawa can help design and build shoes that provide you with the right support and prevent heel pain and injuries.

Author Derek Gilmer

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