When Should I Be Concerned About Heel Pain?

Whether it’s a sharp, stabbing pain or a dull, aching sensation, heel pain can make it difficult to walk or even stand for extended periods. But why do heels hurt, and what can you do to alleviate the pain?

Why Do Heels Hurt?

There are several potential causes of heel pain, and it’s important to determine the root cause of the discomfort to create an effective treatment plan. Some of the most common causes of heel pain include:

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a condition that occurs when the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed. This can cause pain in the heel, especially when standing or walking for extended periods.

Heel Spurs

Heel spurs are bony growths that develop on the heel bone. They can be caused by repetitive strain on the foot or as a result of a condition such as plantar fasciitis. Heel spurs rarely are the cause of pain in the heel but come from repetitive trauma and abnormal foot alignment, as they are a common incidental finding on many X-rays. 

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is a condition that occurs when the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, becomes inflamed. This can cause pain and stiffness in the heel, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity.

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone that can occur as a result of repetitive strain or overuse. They can cause pain and tenderness in the heel, especially when walking or running.

Warning Signs of Injury From Heel Pain

While heel pain can be caused by several conditions, there are some warning signs that may indicate a more serious injury. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms along with your heel pain, it’s important to seek medical attention:

  • Severe pain: If your heel pain is severe or is preventing you from walking or standing, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  • Swelling: If your heel is swollen or feels warm to the touch, this could indicate a more serious injury, such as a stress fracture or Achilles tendonitis.
  • Numbness or tingling: If you are experiencing numbness or tingling in your heel or foot, this could be a sign of nerve damage, which requires immediate medical attention.

How To Treat Heel Pain

The good news is that many cases of heel pain can be effectively treated with conservative measures. Some of the most common treatments for heel pain include:


If you’re experiencing heel pain, the first step in treatment is to rest. Avoid activities that cause pain, and take a break from exercise or other activities that strain the foot. This will give your feet a chance to heal and recover from the stress and strain that caused the pain in the first place. Resting your feet is especially important if you have plantar fasciitis, as this condition can be aggravated by too much activity.


Applying ice to the affected area can help to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Try using an ice pack for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times per day. You can also try rolling a frozen water bottle under your foot to massage the affected area and provide relief. Make sure to wrap the ice or frozen water bottle in a towel to prevent skin damage.

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

Stretching and strengthening exercises can help to alleviate pain and prevent further injury. The following exercises can be done at home to help stretch and strengthen the muscles.

  • Calf stretch: Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Step back with your left foot, keeping your heel on the ground. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds on the ground. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
  • Towel stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Loop a towel around the ball of your right foot and gently pull the towel towards you, keeping your knee straight. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
  • Toe curls: Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Place a towel on the floor, and use your toes to scrunch up the towel and pull it towards you. Repeat 10-15 times.
  • Heel raises: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly rise up on your toes, then lower back down. Repeat 10-15 times.


Custom orthotics can be used to support the foot and redistribute pressure, which can help to alleviate pain and prevent further injury. Orthotics can be purchased over the counter, or you can have them custom-made by a podiatrist to fit your individual needs. They can be especially helpful if you have flat feet or high arches, which can put additional strain on the feet.


You can use over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Make sure to follow the instructions on the label and check with your doctor if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking other medications.

Corticosteroid Injections

Corticosteroid injections can be used to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. This treatment is usually reserved for severe cases of heel pain that have not responded to other treatments. Corticosteroid injections should only be given by a qualified healthcare professional, and they can have side effects, including increased risk of infection, nerve damage, and weakening of the tendons.


In severe cases of heel pain, surgery may be necessary to repair a damaged tendon or to remove any spur, especially in the back of the heel. Surgery is usually only recommended if other treatments have failed, and it carries risks just like any other surgical procedure.

Come See the Heel Pain Experts at Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine in Chicago, IL

Heel pain can be a frustrating and painful condition, but it’s important to remember that it can be treated effectively with conservative measures. If you experience heel pain, it’s important to pay attention to any warning signs of injury and seek medical attention if necessary. By resting your feet, applying ice, stretching and strengthening, using orthotics, and taking medication if necessary, you can effectively treat heel pain and get back to your daily activities without pain in no time. Remember to always consult with Dr. Bever and Dr. Schoene before starting any new treatments or medications. You can contact Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine Associates online today to get your appointment scheduled!