The heel is the largest bone in the foot. Heel pain is the most common foot problem and affects 2 million Americans every year. It can occur in the front, back, or bottom of the heel. Types of heel pain include:
- Achilles tendinitis
- Bursitis of the heel
- Excess pronation
- Haglund's deformity
- Heel spur syndrome
- Plantar fasciitis
Each type of heal pain is described in more detail below. General treatment guidelines are as follows:
- The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) suggests shoe inserts, medications, and stretching as a first line of therapy for heel pain. One study found that 95% of women who used an insert and did simple stretching exercises for the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia experienced improvement after 8 weeks.
- If these treatments fail, the patient may need prescription heel orthotics and extended physical therapy. Surgery may be an option if other methods have failed.
Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It is caused by small tears in the tendon from overuse or injury. This condition is most common in people who engage in high-impact exercise, particularly jogging, racquetball, and tennis.
Of the people who engage in these activities, those at highest risk for this disorder are the ones with a shortened Achilles tendon. Such people tend to roll their feet too far inward when walking, and may bounce when they walk. A shortened tendon can be due to an inborn structural abnormality, or it can develop from regularly wearing high heels.
An inflamed or torn Achilles tendon causes intense pain and affects mobility.
Review Date: 01/30/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.