Heel PainHeel Pain

If you ever stood or walked on your feet only to experience a sudden sharp or stabbing painful sensation in your heel, then you’re no stranger to heel pain. Now whether this is a random occurrence or something that occurs more frequently, it’s no secret that heel pain can significantly impact mobility and quality of life. 

You may be accustomed to resorting to home remedies and resting your feet to avoid this disturbing sensation. However, it’s important for you to learn the common causes so you can take appropriate action and seek out care at a podiatry in Los Angeles when necessary. Understanding the causes of heel pain is essential for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. 

Continue reading to explore the top 10 causes of heel pain, including their symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.

1. Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia (a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot that connects the heel bone to the toes) becomes swollen, red, and inflamed. The most common complaints regarding this condition include sharp pain in the heel, especially with the first steps in the morning or after prolonged periods of rest. Individuals with an elevated risk for developing plantar fasciitis are those who spend lots of time on or using their feet, are overweight, and wear poorly fitting footwear. Podiatry treatment often involves a combination of rest, stretching exercises, orthotic inserts, and physical therapy.

2. Achilles Tendinitis

Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the body. This structure connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. The most common symptoms of Achilles tendinitis are pain and stiffness at the back of the heel, particularly during physical activity. Risk factors for Achilles tendinitis include overuse, tight calf muscles, and sudden increases in activity levels. Rest, ice therapy, stretching exercises, and wearing supportive footwear are recommended to calm the inflammation and soothe the discomfort.

3. Heel Spurs

Heel spurs are bony growths that develop on the underside of the heel bone. They are often diagnosed in individuals with chronic plantar fasciitis or experiencing repetitive stress on the foot. In many cases, the heel spurs themselves are not painful. However, they often irritate the surrounding tissues, especially with weight-bearing activities, leading to extreme pain and discomfort. A timely diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause, using orthotic inserts, physical therapy, or surgery to remove the growths in extreme cases, are the most common podiatrist recommendations.

4. Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are tiny cracks or fissures in the bones of the foot, commonly affecting the heel or metatarsal bones. They typically occur due to repetitive stress or overuse, such as high-impact activities like running or jumping. Symptoms include localized pain, swelling, and tenderness, which worsen with activity and improve with rest. Treatment involves rest, immobilization with a cast or boot, and a gradual return to activity under the guidance of a board-certified foot doctor at a podiatry in Los Angeles.

5. Bursitis

Bursitis is inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion and lubricate joints throughout the body. In the heel, bursitis can occur in the retrocalcaneal bursa, located between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone, or the subcutaneous calcaneal bursa, located between the skin and the Achilles tendon. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and tenderness at the back of the heel, which may worsen with activity. Rest, ice therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy are the most effective treatments for bursitis.

6. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition characterized by compression of the posterior tibial nerve as it passes through the tarsal tunnel, a narrow space on the inside of the ankle. Symptoms include pain, burning, tingling, or numbness in the heel and sole of the foot, which may radiate into the toes. Risk factors include flat feet, ankle injuries, and systemic conditions like diabetes or arthritis. Treatment involves rest, orthotic devices, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve.

7. Sever’s Disease

Sever’s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a common cause of heel pain in children and adolescents, particularly those who are active in sports. It occurs due to inflammation of the growth plate in the heel bone, often as a result of repetitive stress or overuse. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and tenderness at the back of the heel, especially during physical activity. Treatment typically involves rest, ice therapy, stretching exercises, and supportive footwear.

8. Haglund’s Deformity

Haglund’s deformity, or pump bump or retrocalcaneal bursitis, is a bony enlargement on the back of the heel bone. It’s common in individuals experiencing repeated friction or pressure on their feet due to rigid or tight-fitting footwear. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and redness at the back of the heel, which may worsen with shoe wear. Podiatrist patients benefit from wearing open-backed shoes, padding the affected area, using orthotic inserts, and in severe cases, having surgery to remove the bony structure.

9. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune condition that can affect multiple joints throughout the body, including the joints of the foot and ankle. In the heel, rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation, swelling, and pain, which may be worse in the morning or after periods of rest. Other symptoms may include stiffness, warmth, and joint deformities. Treatment typically involves a combination of medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications to manage symptoms and slow disease progression.

10. Gout

Gout is an inflammatory type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. Gout is typically diagnosed in the big toe, but it’s not uncommon for it to affect the heel. Gout often causes flare-ups that trigger sudden and severe pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected area. Individuals who meet the following characteristics are more likely to develop the condition than others: obesity, high purine diet, alcohol consumption, and using certain medications. Treatment recommendations include medications to relieve pain and inflammation, dietary changes, and lifestyle modifications to prevent future attacks.

Though the conditions mentioned above are the most common causes of heel pain, other lesser-known medical concerns can also cause it. For example, certain systemic conditions, such as diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, and circulatory disorders that damage the nerves, and impair circulation and wound healing, can lead to heel pain.

Untreated and poorly managed systemic conditions can compromise foot health, overall health, and general well-being. In some cases, limp amputations and other limb preservation treatments are necessary. To avoid severe and potentially limb and life-threatening issues, seek out medical care from a podiatrist in Los Angeles at your earliest convenience. 


Heel pain can be a debilitating condition that affects mobility and quality of life. Understanding the various causes of heel pain is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. From common conditions like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis to more serious issues like stress fractures and systemic diseases, each underlying cause requires specific management strategies tailored to the individual’s needs. Seeking prompt medical attention and adhering to prescribed treatments can alleviate symptoms and prevent further complications.

Additionally, preventive measures such as wearing supportive footwear, maintaining a healthy weight, and practicing proper foot care can help reduce the risk of developing heel pain. By addressing the root cause of heel pain and adopting preventive strategies, individuals can regain comfort, mobility, and overall well-being.

Contact LA Foot Laser podiatry in Los Angeles to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kourosh Harounian, DPM. 


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