Heel Pain Causes - Where and How It Hurts Matters

Oct 19, 2023

If you’re experiencing heel pain, knowing exactly where and how it hurts can help you find the most effective treatment course.

A throbbing ache and a burning sensation could hint at very different conditions. Besides, your heel might only be a source of referred pain and not the exact pain source.

That’s why it’s essential to understand the different causes and locations of heel pain. Most of which begins with:

  • Improper posture and gait
  • Ill-fitting shoes
  • Standing on your feet for long periods
  • Too much stress on the heels
  • High feet arches
  • Flat feet
  • Diabetes
  • Old age

After you’ve identified where you fit above, let’s look at the conditions you could have developed from them – as well as potential treatments.



Achilles tendinitis results from injury to the Achilles tendon, the fibrous connective tissue linking the calf muscles to the heel bone.

Due to sports-related overuse and stretching, this strong cord can eventually tear and cause heel pain. But not just any pain: it typically manifests as a mild ache above the heel or on the back of the leg. It can worsen with more heated activity, like fast walking or running.

Upon getting out of bed in the morning, patients suffering from Achilles tendinitis may have to stretch their lower leg to get rid of stiffness above the heel.


Plantar fasciitis is caused by inflammation of the tissue cord that connects the heel bone to the toes. It’s an essential part of foot movement and proper weight balance.

The inflammation and pain of this tissue can result from sports-related injuries, but also from foot structure abnormalities and ill-fitting shoes. The pain usually manifests along the bottom of the heel after long periods of rest, and it might get worse after your muscles cool down after exercising.


Heel spurs are bony bulges that happen due to the deposit of calcium under the heel bone. Over a period of months, this outgrowth will poke out into the heel and cause pain.

Other causes of heel spurs include strained muscles and ligaments. When this bulge is no longer restrained by protective membranes – like the plantar fascia – it can “poke” the heel, which becomes inflamed. This inflammation can feel like a sharp knife through the heel.

Although heel spurs can’t be cured, they can be treated.


Stress fractures are also called “calcaneal stress fractures,” calcaneal being anything that relates to the heel bone.

Repetitive and continuous stress to the heel bone can cause wear-and-tear. If you take an X-Ray, you’ll see that these fractures look like cracks, which can seem pretty small for such intense pain. Patients may also notice that their heel is swollen, tender, and painful to the touch.

As a consequence, walking or standing for long periods may cause intense pain. Trying to put your entire body’s weight on the fractured heel could be outright agonizing.


A direct outcome of ankle overuse, bursitis is mostly caused by excessive walking, jumping, or running. It’s prevalent in patients who wear improper shoes when exercising or jogging.

Even looking at your heel can help you spot a potential case of bursitis, as the area may be red and swollen. Classic signs also include a heel that causes dull pain and warmth to the touch, or pain that increases when you try to stand on your toes.


As we’ve mentioned, heel pain has multiple causes. Similarly, there are several different treatments for different diagnoses at different stages.

Whatever the cause of your heel pain, there are plenty of effective treatments that can help you eliminate it. Here are some of them.


The MLS Laser Therapy is an approved, non-invasive laser treatment that uses two therapeutic lasers to treat sprains and general tissue inflammation.

This type of laser therapy consists of a device with two different wavelengths: an anti-inflammatory/anti-edemic wavelength of 808 nanometers (nm) and an analgesic wavelength of 905 nanometers (nm).

Together, they provide 85-90% of effectiveness when stimulating non-invasive cellular regeneration.

Each laser session lasts for 10 to 15 minutes, with noticeable results after the first session. Depending on the severity of the injury, some patients may need to complete from 6 to 12 sessions for full healing.


Think of custom orthotics as perfect molds for imperfect feet.

Some feet have high arches and flat soles, which could badly distribute body weight and increase pain in injured areas. Orthotics solve this problem by improving proper foot positioning and relieving pressure when standing or moving.

Their effectiveness, however, depends on the quality of the devices. Custom-made orthotics tend to show better results than store-bought ones, as they’re specially adapted for the contours of your feet.


Regenerative medicines, like PRP injections, aim to heal tissues, cells, and organs that have been injured by trauma. They can be extremely effective for heel pain by getting more concentrated blood to the source of the pain so that the natural healing system of the body can heal the injury.


So, do you really need surgery for your heel pain? The answer is: not always. In most cases, surgery is only considered a last resort.

First, it depends on how advanced your condition is. For instance, someone with mild Achilles tendinitis may not need surgery, while someone with a ruptured tendon might. Plus, depending on the severity of a heel spur or plantar fasciitis, surgery could be the only plausible solution for some patients.

Yet, rest assured that our foot and ankle specialists will often advise other treatments for at least six months before considering surgery.

Of course, if your heel pain is affecting your ability to walk normally or move your feet, surgery might be required. This is also true if your heel pain accompanies fever or local tingling.


You can break free from that nagging pain while it’s still tolerable. All you have to do is call our Chandler office at (480) 963-9000 or fill out our online contact form to set up a quick appointment. Our team will get in touch with you shortly!