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Family Foot & Ankle

The Many Causes of Heel Pain

Without a doubt, heel pain is the most common foot-related symptom experienced by average, everyday Americans. Unfortunately, even moderate heel pain can severely constrain your activities, keeping you from enjoying the things you love to do.

Despite this, many people choose to simply live with the pain instead of seeking help. This is a huge mistake! While heel pain may be very common, it is by no means normal, and the team at Family Foot & Ankle Center is here to help you get rid of it.

Almost all cases of heel pain can be relieved using conservative methods, even when pain is severe or long-lasting. All you need to do to get started is give us a call!

What Causes Heel Pain?

One of the big reasons heel pain can be so difficult to manage on your own is that it has so many potential contributing causes. In order to build the best treatment plan, we need to understand which precise factors are involved in your situation, and to what degree.

Some of the possible “big picture” contributing factors include:

  • Inherited or acquired defects in foot structure
  • Abnormal walking biomechanics and gait patterns
  • Wearing ill-fitting, unsupportive, or inappropriate shoes
  • Occupations that require a lot of standing or walking
  • Unsafe or ill-advised exercise or training programs
  • Being overweight or obese


All of these factors can be modified, mitigated, or outright eliminated with the right approach. (No, we’re not saying you need to quit your job, but there are almost always sensible adjustments you can make to your workstation, your footwear, or other factors to make the day go much more smoothly for your feet.)

But without knowing what specifically needs to be adjusted, you might find your initial attempts at home treatment are unsuccessful. We’re here to help with that!

Heel Pain Conditions

One other thing that makes heel pain tricky is that it isn’t a condition in and of itself. It’s a symptom, and it can be caused by a variety of very different types of injuries or situations. Some of the most common include:

  • Plantar Fasciitis. This is probably the most common source of painful heels. The plantar fascia, a band of tissue running across your arch from heel to toe, becomes inflamed and contracts during times of rest. As a result, the pain is often worst when you rise from bed—it takes a few minutes of walking for the tissues to stretch out and relax again.

  • Achilles Tendinitis. Your Achilles may be the strongest tendon in your body, but that doesn’t mean it’s invincible. Overuse can cause fibers to stretch and tear, resulting in chronic inflammation. Since the Achilles attaches to your heel bone, the pain can be localized there.

  • Heel Spurs. The membranes surrounding the heel can tear. If you tear them enough, it may cause bony calcium deposits to form on the calcaneus. This condition is often associated with plantar fasciitis—especially when untreated—but can form independently as well.

  • Bursitis. Small sacs of synovial fluid, called bursae, allow muscles and tendons to glide smoothly across bone. If these sacs become irritated, they can form an uncomfortable bump and make movement difficult and painful.

  • Haglund’s Deformity. Often called a “pump bump” due to the fact that high heel use is a contributing factor, this bony protrusion occurs at the back of the heel where the Achilles attaches to the calcaneus.

  • Stress Fractures. Repetitive trauma without adequate rest can result in tiny fractures to the heel bone (or other bones in the foot, ankle, or legs). This is common in athletes who play sports with a lot of running and jumping.

  • Heel Fractures. When a large amount of force is applied to your heel bone, it can break. Some of the more common injuries that can cause a broken heel include falling off a ladder or an automobile accident. If you suspect you have a broken heel, come see us right away since this type of injury often results in a long and complicated recovery.

  • Stone Bruise. Landing on a small, hard, sharp object, such as a stone, can bruise the layer of fat protecting your heel. The pain can be quite acute and intense, and there may be discoloration. Fortunately, in most cases it goes away without any treatment—just rest.

As with identifying the root causes, correctly diagnosing the specific injury or condition is necessary in order to develop the most effective treatment plan for you.

Make Your Heel Pain a Thing of the Past

Heel pain can be complicated, but that doesn’t mean lasting relief is out of reach! You just need a team of professionals who can talk with you about your symptoms, thoroughly examine your feet, and start you down an effective path to recovery.

In addition to a visual inspection, we also can provide in-office ultrasound and X-ray imaging to clearly inspect both soft tissues and bones for signs of tearing and damage.

As we said earlier, the good news is that heel pain requires surgical treatment only in very rare cases. Conservative treatments are highly effective at bringing relief. Treatment options that may be considered, depending on the cause of your pain, include (but are not limited to):


We help people just like you overcome their heel pain every single day. By working together, we are confident that we can help you develop an effective treatment plan that will reduce your pain and get you back to doing what you love!

Family Foot and Ankle Center is Greater Cincinnati’s No. 1 resource for quick foot pain relief, with six locations throughout Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky to serve you. Call us at (513) 728-4800 or connect online to request an appointment.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.