Risk Factors and Causes of Heel Pain

Misalignments caused by abnormalities in the structure of the feet increase the risk for heel pain. Other risk factors include the following:

  • Engaging in strenuous exercise (especially repetitive jumping and running)
  • Obesity
  • Standing for prolonged periods
  • Wearing shoes that do not fit properly

To reduce the risk for heel pain, it is important to wear shoes or sneakers that fit correctly and to warm up properly before exercising.

The most common cause for heel pain is inflammation of the fibrous connective tissue on the sole of the foot (plantar fasciitis). Other causes include the following:

  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Bone bruises
  • Excessive pronation (tendency of the foot to roll inward)
  • Haglund's deformity (bony growth at the back of the heel that usually occurs when shoes repeatedly aggravate tissue and underlying bone)
  • Heel spurs (also called bone spurs)
  • Inflammatory conditions (e.g., ankylosing spondylitis, diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis)
  • Sever's disease (relatively common condition in active growing children and adolescents)
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma of the foot (rare)
  • Stress fractures
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome (nerve entrapment that may cause pain on the sole of the foot)

Publication Review By: J. Michael Lunsford, D.P.M.

Published: 31 Dec 1999

Last Modified: 18 Sep 2015