Heel pain can be an intense pain and if it is felt in one or both heels, builds up gradually and gets worse over time, it is likely to be caused by plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is where the tissue that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot (the plantar fascia) becomes thickened and inflamed.
Heel pain is often severe and occurs when placing weight on the heel. It's usually worse first thing in the morning, or when you first take a step after a period of being inactive. Walking can improve the pain, but it often gets worse again after walking or standing for a long time.
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, accounting for around four out of five cases.
Plantar fasciitis usually affects people who run and jog regularly, or overweight people, aged between 40 and 60, who spend a lot of time on their feet.
The plantar fascia is a piece of tissue that starts at the Achilles tendon. It attaches to the ball of the foot and runs forward through the arch to just below the base of the toes. It pulls the heel bone forwards, while the Achilles tendon pulls it back, to maintain your foot arch.
As we mobilise, our feet support the equivalent of 20 times our body weight, assisted by the plantar fascia which acts as a soft cushioning pad or shock-absorber.
Sudden damage, or damage that occurs over many months or years, can cause tiny tears inside the tissue of the plantar fascia. This can cause the it to thicken, resulting in heel pain. The surrounding tissue and heel bone can also sometimes become inflamed.
If the pain persists longer than three weeks, see your GP or another suitably qualified healthcare professional, such as a podiatrist.
This is necessary as there are many types of heel pain, each with their own different cause and form of treatment. While plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, others might include:
There are many simple ways to prevent plantar fasciitis. You could:
Heel pain is a common condition and in most cases will diminish following some routine self-care measures.
Here are some simple steps you can take to reduce the heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis:
In rare cases, these treatments for plantar fasciitis won’t work. If this happens, you could undertake the following:
Evidence suggests that the most effective long term solution is correction of foot posture through the use of insole supports and appropriate foot stretching and strengthening regimes.
Answered by our Health at Hand team.
Heel Pain – NHS Factsheet
Taking care of your feet - AXA PPP healthcare
Why not to wear high heels to work - AXA PPP healthcare
We’re here to help you take care of your health - whenever you need us, wherever you are, whether you're an AXA PPP healthcare member or not.
Our Ask the Expert service allows you to ask our team of friendly and experienced nurses, midwives, counsellors and pharmacists about any health topic.