17 Common Causes of Heel Pain

Feet of a manWhat are the most common causes of heel pain? Take a look at the Mayo Clinic website. They list 17 potential issues that may be causing the pain you are feeling.

Heel Stress

There are 26 bones, 33 joints, and a total of 100+ muscles, tendons, and ligaments in each foot. Of the bones, the heel bone is the largest. Due to its critical location on the human body, it is required to absorb a great deal of weight and stress.

Stress on the heel may result from various difficulties including:

  • abnormalities in how you walk;
  • issues with your feet, such as flat feet or high arches, or with tight calf muscles;
  • being overweight;
  • shoes or other footwear that do not support your foot properly;
  • a bruise resulting from excessive walking, jumping, or running on a hard surface;
  • an injury of some sort.

Any of these difficulties could affect the heel bone or the soft tissue that attaches to the heel bone.

Be sure to consult your doctor if the pain is severe or if common treatments do not serve to reduce your pain.

The Big Two

Heel pain typically occurs either on the back part of the heel or on the bottom of the heel. Of the 17 potential heel pain causes, the two most common culprits are plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. Your issues could also be caused by afflictions such as fibromyalgia, gout, pinched nerves, or stress fractures, among others.

Achilles tendonIf your pain is focused on the back side of your heel then you most likely are suffering from Achilles tendinitis. This is typically an overuse injury. It commonly affects the area where your Achilles tendon attaches to your heel bone.

What leads to tendinitis? Here are two common scenarios: If you are a runner and you suddenly increase the length or intensity of your runs, you could fall prey to this type of pain. Additionally, if you are middle-aged and a weekend warrior, playing sports primarily once a week, tendinitis will often become an issue.

But if the pain is on the bottom of your foot, typically in the center or the side of your heel, then the most common cause is plantar fasciitis. It is, by the way, the number one cause of heel pain.PF Pain Areas

Traditional, accepted definitions state that plantar fasciitis is typically caused by overuse of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue running along the bottom of your foot. This tissue connects the heel bone to the toes. When the plantar fascia is strained beyond normal for a period of time, the fibers in the fascia may tear or stretch along its length, causing pain.

An alternative theory, based on research from a 2003 study of fascia tissue taken from 50 plantar fasciitis patients, is that restricted blood flow to the heel area is causing cells to die off. This cell death leaves the foot weakened, allowing the micro-tears in the fascia. You can learn more about this interesting theory by reading What is Plantar Fasciosis?.

Read more about the definition and characteristics of plantar fasciitis on the How to Diagnose Plantar Fasciitis page on this website.

What You Will Find On This Site

This site will not try to cover all heel pain causes. It is initially focused on plantar fasciitis and bottom-of-the-heel pain.

Eliminate Heel Pain will delve into the symptoms and treatment of plantar fasciitis pain, including common therapy and exercises to relieve the pain. It will also present and review available products that can be used to treat the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

4 thoughts on “17 Common Causes of Heel Pain

  1. I appreciate you explaining more about the two many causes of foot pain. It’s important that we are able to identify the symptoms of these foot issues as soon as possible. If it is an overuse injury, then you will need to see a foot and ankle specialist who can get you the right treatment and help you develop a plan for staying of that foot so it can heal.

    1. I agree, Bernard. It is critical to identify the symptoms right away. That’s why one of my first articles talked about the RICE method of handling foot pain. To this point in life I’ve never suffered from overuse foot injuries but I know that I could easily fall victim to such injury because I’m now older and have a somewhat more sedentary lifestyle, so a sudden change to go “hiking” or “hill climbing” too much could cause problems. Obviously I did run into plantar fasciitis pain and I don’t wish that on anyone. I found it interesting that your Hoyal site referred to the same Mayo Clinic website (to define the feet issues that the clinic typically sees) as my article. Thanks for commenting.

  2. It’s great that you mentioned how heel pain usually occurs on either the back part or the bottom part of the heel. I’ve been having some trouble walking lately it is caused by some strange pain on my heels. It is quite a hassle to move around like this, so I should probably consult with a podiatrist soon.

  3. You caught my attention when you talked about the sudden intensity of running as a cause for heel pain. This might be exactly what has happened to me and my wife since we’ve started running more as a way to get some physical exercise but have now started feeling some aching in our heels every time we’re done. I’ll get the help of an orthopedist and see what kind of advice we need to listen to to stop this.

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