Sharp Heel Pain in the Foot [Causes, Diagnosis & Best Treatment]
Do you have sharp heel pain in your foot? There #1 cause can be inflammation to a ligament in your heel, but it can also be nerve pain. Fix it FAST!
- One of the top causes of heel pain is plantar fasciitis, this is damage to a ligament that holds your heel to your toes.
- There are also photos of heel spurs that can occur to the bottom of your heel (plantar fascia insertion) and the back of your heel (Achilles tendon insertion).
- Baxter’s nerve entrapment can also happen at the bottom of the heel.
- An underlying cause is an over pronated flatfoot, or an over supinated high arched foot.
- This can lead to the formation of a heel stress fracture( AKA calcaneus stress fracture.
Please click on the gallery for a guided tour through heel pain conditions!
Sharp Heel Pain in the Foot Diagnosis Guide Overview:
- Sharp heel pain is most commonly caused by a condition called plantar fasciitis.
- There are also other causes of nerve pain such as Baxter’s nerve pain.
- It is said that Baxter’s nerve pain can cause up to 20%of all heel pain.
The Major Cause:
1)Mechanical Heel Pain:
- The major cause of heel pain is mechanical.
- This is also known as plantar fasciitis.
- This means that there was no injury or disease process.
- This means that poor shoes, weight or tight muscles have been causing you to stand and walk improperly for many years leading to the eventual overuse of your foot ligaments!
More likely mechanical heel pain if:
- Lack of stretching.
- Tight ankles, hamstrings, hips or back.
- Heeled shoes or any raised shoes.
- Out of shape.
- Prior injury altering the way you walk.
Less likely mechanical heel pain if:
- Radiating numbness burning and tingling (more likely a nerve problem)
- Decreased or absent normal joint range of motion- especially ankle dorsiflexion (likely arthritis)
- Presence of hyperesthesia or dysthesias (nerve problem)
- Decreased fat pad or fat pad atrophy (fat pad contusion)
- If you suffered and injury (traumatic injury)
- The heel went from feeling great to feeling awful in a short period of time.
These conditions lead to “weakened” ligaments that are not used to standing all day or walking long distances. This leads to pain the morning upon and after periods of rest, but as you walk around the pain usually decreases.
If this is you- Go Back to the Treatment Guide:
The Less Likely Causes:
If you suspect that your heel pain is not caused by mechanical causes, then your best bet is to go see your podiatrist at this point.
These can occur as a result of compression of nerves along the inside of your ankle leading to the foot.
- Radiating pain.
- Sharp and shooting pain.
- Numbness in your feet
This is as a result of arthritis in the ankle or the subtalar joint (a joint in the heel). This can also give the impression of radiating heel pain.
- Likely if you are suffering from bilateral plantar fasciitis.
- History of rheumatoid arthritis.
- History of Psoriasis.
- History of ankylosing spondylitis.
- History of any other inflammatory arthritis.
– If you landed on your heel previously and it has led to aching pain, if you have been running heavily and your heel starts to hurt more after activity, if the pain has onset heavily one day after not hurting before.
- Prior injury.
- Prior severe pain.
- Pain that appeared acutely.
Stress Fractures due to overuse and pressure on the heel bone (the calcaneus).
- Pain gets worse the more you walk on it.
- Especially barefoot on a hard surface.
- Just started heavy standing or exercise.
5)Heel Pad Contusion.
deep bruising pain in the middle of the heel. This can lead to sore and aching pain.
- Prior soft tissue injury.
- Swelling and bruising of the heel.
The Back of the Heel, not the bottom.
- Pain in the morning.
- Pain in the back of the heel.
- No inciting injury.
Best Heel Pain Products:
- There are usually two phases to treating plantar fasciitis pain.
- The two phases of treatment include controlling the acute inflammation, and correcting the biomechanics which led to the problem in the first place.
- If the tendons and ligaments are inflamed, they are almost frozen in place and cannot function properly.
- Once the inflammation is decreased, we need to correct the bio-mechanical causes to ensure that they can never become over worked and inflamed again!
- This doesn’t matter whether it’s plantar fasciitis, plantar fibroma, sore bottom of foot, or even Achilles tendon pain. Treatment is all roughly very similar.
Plantar Fasciitis or Achilles Tendonitis Inflammation:
Massage & Ice Products:
- Ice is the an excellent option that can be safe for almost everyone.
- There is some debate whether icing is worth doing, but for chronic pain this can help limit the need for medications and keep your options open.
- This works great for your arch, less for the ball of the foot.
- The more muscle and ligament tissue there is, the better ice will work there.
Menthol Based Gels:
- Biofreeze is one of our favorites.
- These gels have been studied to work 2x as long as ice.
- This works great for the ball of the foot.
- This can be very effective for bottom of the heel and Achilles tendon sore regions.
- These can work great for loosening your muscles.
- This allows less tightness and pressure on the ball of your foot.
- This is very effective for the arch, the gastrocnemius or calf muscle and for the hamstring and thigh muscles.
- This also works very well for the gluteus muscles if you are having butt cheek or hip pain.
Remove the Plantar Fascia or Achilles Tendon Stress:
- The key is to prevent future pain.
- This means keeping you active while keeping stress off of your plantar fascia tendon. This will prevent future re-injury and development of plantar fasciitis.
- If you can get rid of the pain and swelling, this will let you start walking normally.
- If you can walk normally, the vast majority of your pain should gradually start to go away.
- The best way to ensure that your plantar fascia, foot and ankle ligaments are not overworked is to support them.
- The best way to support them is to use great orthotics and great shoes.
- Some people may also need to rely on supportive ankle braces and other supportive modalities.
The Best Heel Pain & Plantar Fasciitis Shoes:
- Getting a great supportive pair of shoes will make sure that there is pressure removed from the heel and plantar fascia region.
- This is especially important if you have plantar fasciitis, heel spur pain or Achilles tendonitis.
- Consider shoes combined with a good supportive orthotic for best pain relief!
- The following link will show you what our favorites are.
Best Heel Pain & Plantar Fasciitis Orthotics:
- These are our recommended orthotics for plantar fasciitis.
- Custom orthotics can work very well, but they should not be a first line of treatment.
- There are different types for different shoes.
- Women’s shoes usually need a less bulky orthotic, but allow for less correction.
- A full length orthotic requires a running shoe, boot or comfortable walking/dress shoe.
- We recommend doing everything you can to get a good supportive shoe that can fit a full length orthotic.
- This is the best way to maximize your orthotics for great results.
Best Full Length Orthotics:
- These will only work in wider shoes or a good supportive running shoe.
- This will not work in sandals, flats or most women’s dress shoes.
Best Dress Shoe Orthotics:
- These are a great choice for dress orthotics.
Best 3/4 Length Orthotics:
- These are great options for women’s dress shoes and thinner shoes.
- These are not the most supportive pair of orthotics.
Get A Great Dynamic Stretch:
- It is possible to stretch on your own, but these products can also really help!
- This will take pressure off of the ball of your foot.
- We personally prefer this method of stretching.
Get A Great Static Stretch:
- These devices are great for stretching while you are resting.
- This will also help take pressure off of the ball of your foot.
- This works great for plantar fasciitis.
- It can be used while watching TV or at night time.
Best Heel Compression Brace:
- A good compression brace can stabilize your foot from turning outward.
- This prevents your foot from pronated.
- Pronated foot will turn your foot outward in your foot will rub on the outside of the shoe.
- For many of her patients this has solved their pain and is very comfortable to wear inside your shoe.
- This solves both pain and outward pronation for a relatively low cost.
Best Heel Stability Brace:
- Stability brace goes little bit further than the compression brace to stop your foot from turning out.
- This takes pressure off of your heel and plantar fascia.
- At the same time this is a little bit bulkier and does not affect every shoe.
- We find people are little bit happier trying the compression brace before the stability brace.
- If you think you might have a broken heel, a calcaneal stress fracture or something of similar severity, these products might help!
- Always remember to see a foot and ankle specialist like a podiatrist if you are having plantar fasciitis or more severe pain!
Plantar Fascia Tear, Broken Heel Bone, Achilles Tendon Tear:
- If you have a traumatic injury such as a torn plantar fascia ligament, calcaneus stress fracture, heel fracture or insertional Achilles tendon injury: consider protecting your foot!
- The best way to do this is of course to see your podiatrist and get evaluated with an x-ray, ultrasound and potentially even an MRI or CT scan.
- If you are unable to do so it may benefit you to be in a cast, fractured boot, or even keep the weight off of it with a rolling knee scooter or other protective devices.
- We as podiatrists frequently take patients off work for very long period of time when they suffer a traumatic injury, unfortunately there is no other way around us in labor jobs.
- If you have a sit down job there are ways to get people back to work quicker, but this can be very difficult otherwise.
Heel Injury Boot Treatment:
- There are pros and cons to using a boot to treat your heel injury. If you are immobilized too long the cons are that you will gradually become stiff and overworked to your other leg. The Pros are that you injured heel will hopefully have a chance to gradually heal!
- Our favorite fracture boots and their supplies:
Offloading and Scooter treatment:
- These are favorite knee scooters and walking devices: