Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Man with heel pain having a foot massage.

Man with heel pain having a foot massage.
beginning of content

Heel pain

Heel pain is usually caused by overuse. The most common causes are plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis and arthritis. If you have heel pain that persists, you should see a doctor or physiotherapist.

What causes heel pain?

Plantar fasciitis

Using your feet a lot for walking, work or exercise can cause your plantar fascia to become tight, pulling on where it attaches to your heel bone.

This can make the fascia and heel inflamed and sore. This is known as plantar fasciitis.

People with plantar fasciitis often say the pain is worse when they first get out of bed, or when they walk after they’ve been sitting still for a while. The pain is usually felt in the sole of the foot and the bottom of the heel. It usually eases after a few minutes of walking.

Achilles tendinitis

Achilles tendinitis is another common cause of heel pain. It is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which runs from the heel to the calf.

It often causes pain behind the heel. It can also cause swelling, warmth and tenderness there. It might hurt to rise to stand on your toes. It can be caused by tight calf muscles and overuse.

Other causes

Arthritis can also cause pain in the heel. Other common causes of heel pain may be:

  • heel bursitis - inflammation of the back of the heel, the bursa (a fibrous sac full of fluid)
  • stress fracture - this can be caused by repetitive stress, strenuous exercise, sports or heavy manual work.
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome - pinched nerve
  • fibromyalgia - a chronic condition that causes pain in the muscles and bone
  • heel pad wear and tear
  • osteomyelitis - infection of the bone
  • gout - type of painful inflammation of joints.

Heel pain diagnosis

A doctor or a physiotherapist is able to diagnose the cause of heel pain by talking to you and examining you.

Heel pain treatment

Your doctor or physiotherapist may recommend rest and home treatments such as stretching your calf muscles if you have plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis.

Other treatments may include:

  • applying ice
  • anti-inflammatory medicines or painkillers
  • night splints or strapping
  • supportive footwear or orthotics
  • losing any excess weight to reduce the stress on your feet.

If you are exercising and feel a sudden pain in the back of the leg, you may have ruptured your Achilles tendon. Seek medical help immediately.

Heel pain prevention

Reducing stress on the feet helps to prevent heel injury and pain. Stretching and a warm-up before exercise can help. If you feel pain in your tendon, you should stop the exercise. Always wear correctly fitted, supportive footwear suitable for your activity.

Last reviewed: November 2015

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 104 results

Foot problems - heel pain

The heel is a padded cushion of fatty tissue around the heel bone (the calcaneus) that holds its shape despite the pressure of body weight and movement. It serves to protect the structures of the foot, including the calcaneus, muscles and ligaments. Heel pain is a very common foot complaint.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Heel pain -

Heel pain is most commonly caused by plantar fasciitis, a chronic overuse injury of the thick band of tissue on the sole of the foot, known as the plantar fascia.

Read more on myDr website

Heel spurs -

A heel spur is a pointed bony outgrowth of the heel bone. They can occur under the heel bone on the sole of the foot where they are associated with plantar fasciitis.

Read more on myDr website

Sever's disease

Sever's disease is a common cause of heel pain, particularly in the young and physically active.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Foot pain: Sarah's flat feet but high hopes | myVMC

If you have inherited flat feet, read about Sarah's experience and how she is now enjoying wearing high heels!

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

At home with arthritis

When you have arthritis, joint pain and weakness can make normal activities around the home difficult

Read more on Arthritis Australia website

Leg ache -

One of the more serious causes of leg pain is intermittent claudication. Find out more about this condition.

Read more on myDr website

Ingrown toenail (nail pain) experience | myVMC

Lydia shares her story of having an ingrown toenail, and how her toenail pain was relieved with a little treatment from her doctor.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Activity - Diabetes NSW - Live your life

Physical activity is vital in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. By becoming more active you can improve your general health, quality of life and type 2 diabetes management. Regular exercise also improves mobility and balance, can help reduce muscle and joint pain and reduce the risk of falls.

Read more on Diabetes NSW website

Posterior tibial tendon injury -

Posterior tibial tendonitis occurs when the posterior tibial tendon becomes inflamed or torn, causing pain on the inside of the shin, ankle or foot.

Read more on myDr website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo