Heel pain

You can ease most heel pain yourself at home. If your heel pain doesn't go away, you should see your GP.

How you can ease heel pain yourself

There are some things you can try to help ease heel pain.

These include.

  • taking ibuprofen or paracetamol
  • putting an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas) in a towel under the heel for up to 20 minutes every two  to three  hours
  • wearing shoes with a medium heel (2 to 3cm) – both men and women
  • doing gentle stretching exercises
  • trying heel pads
  • avoiding putting weight on the foot – avoiding walking or standing for long periods
  • avoiding going barefoot or wear flat shoes

When to see your GP

You should see your GP if:

  • you see no improvement after treating at home
  • the pain gets worse
  • you're finding it difficult to walk

At your appointment your GP will examine you to try to find out what's causing your heel pain.

Most heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis. This is when the ligament that runs from under the heel along the sole of the foot becomes swollen over time.

Referral to a foot specialist

Your GP might refer you to a foot specialist (podiatrist or chiropodist) or a physiotherapist. They can recommend things like exercises and the right shoes to wear.

When to go to a minor injuries unit or emergency department

Go to a minor injuries unit if your symptoms appear mild. Go to an emergency department if you have:

  • severe pain after an injury
  • your foot is a funny shape
  • a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of injury
  • difficulty moving your ankle or foot

These could be signs of a broken bone or ruptured Achilles tendon.

Common causes of heel pain

Your symptoms might give you an idea of what's causing your heel pain. The information below may help you but don’t rely on it for a diagnosis – see a GP if you are concerned about your symptoms.

Below are health conditions that are linked to some common causes of heel pain.

These include:

  • plantar fasciitis – can lead to very bad pain taking first steps after waking or after period of not moving, and difficulty raising toes off the floor
  • Achilles tendonitis – can lead to tenderness and pain at back of heel and along Achilles tendon, and pain in calf when standing on tiptoes
  • heel fracture – can lead to swelling, feels hot, pain on squeezing heel bone, hurts to walk and you've had an injury
  • bursitis – can lead to pain at back of heel (can raise toes without pain)
  • peripheral neuropathy or tarsal tunnel syndrome – can lead to numbness or tingling in foot when moving or resting
  • arthritis – can lead to stiff, swollen heel, and difficulty in moving your foot

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

This page was published February 2018

This page is due for review December 2020

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