Heel pain is a common symptom that has many possible causes. Although heel pain sometimes is caused by a systemic (body-wide) illness, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout, it usually is a local condition that affects only the foot. Following are the most common local causes of heel pain.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammation of the plantar fascia, usually brought about by overwork or being overstretched. This causes intense heel pain along the bottom of the heel during the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning. This heel pain often goes away once you start to walk around, but it may return in the late afternoon or evening.
A heel spur is an abnormal growth of bone at the area where the plantar fascia attaches to the heel bone. It is caused by long-term strain on the plantar fascia and muscles of the foot, especially in obese people, runners or joggers. As in plantar fasciitis, shoes that are worn out, poorly fitting or poorly constructed can aggravate the problem. Heel spurs may not be the cause of heel pain even when seen on an X-ray. In fact, they may develop as a reaction to plantar fasciitis.
Compression of a small nerve (a branch of the lateral plantar nerve) can cause pain, numbness or tingling in the heel area.
Achilles tendonitis is pain at the back of the heel where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel, often triggered by overuse, especially by excessive jumping during sports. However, it also can be related to poorly fitting shoes.