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Heel Pain

Please be aware that unless you have developed a foot wound your referral may be declined. You may want to also discuss the option of being referred to the Musculoskeletal Services for insoles and other treatment options with your GP. If you are diabetic and you notice that the painful area is red/hot and swollen, please seek a Podiatry referral immediately.


What is heel pain?

The heel is a specialised part of the body designed to absorb the impact of your body weight when walking, running or undertaking any other form of physical exertion or weight-bearing exercise. When heel pain develops, it can be very disabling, making every step a problem, which in turn affects your overall posture.

What causes the problem?

Heel pain is a common occurrence. In most cases the pain is caused by some form of mechanical injury resulting from small repetitive injuries that occur at a rate faster than the body can heal them. 

Heel pain can also be caused by lower back problems or inflammatory joint conditions.

The following types of heel pain are not exhaustive but may help you appreciate the complexity of heel pain and why specialist advice can be helpful.

Who gets it?

Heel pain can affect everyone, whatever your age, but those more commonly affected include people in middle age (over 40s age group), those who are overweight or stand for long periods of time, and athletes.

How do I know I have it?

With plantar fasciitis, there are often no visible features on the heel but deep localised painful spots found in or around the middle of the sole of the heel, and pain is usually worse on standing after long periods of rest, particularly first thing in the morning.

With bursitis, pain can be felt at the back of the heel when the ankle joint is moved and there may be a swelling on both sides of the Achilles tendon. Or you may feel pain deep inside the heel when it makes contact with the ground.

Is it serious?

Heel pain is a common condition and in most cases will diminish following some routine self-care measures. If the pain persists longer than three weeks, it is best to seek professional advice from a podiatrist, as there are many types of heel pain, each with their own different causes and separate forms of treatment. 

What are the treatments?

If you experience heel pain, some simple self-care measures include:

  • Avoid wearing ill-fitting or uncomfortable shoes 
  • Wear shoes with good heel cushioning and effective arch support 
  • Minimise walking or exercising on hard ground 
  • Rest regularly and try not to walk or run too fast 
  • Wear a raised heel (no more than 6-10 mm higher than normal) 
  • Lose weight if you are overweight 

More specialist treatments include:

How can I prevent it?

Follow the self-care measures above in the first instance.

When should I see an NHS podiatrist?

If you have any foot health concerns and think this may potentially lead to a complication then please consider discussing a podiatry referral with your GP.

If your foot becomes red, hot or swollen, with new pain, with or without a wound please ask your GP to refer you to Podiatry.

This content was produced by the College of Podiatry.

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