NHS Factsheet

NHS website

Heel pain

Read about heel pain which is commonly caused when a band of tissue in the foot, known as the plantar fascia, is damaged and thickens.

10 December 2018


You can ease most heel pain yourself at home. If it doesn't go away, see a GP.

How you can ease heel pain yourself

Try these things:


  • take ibuprofen ↗ or paracetamol
  • put an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas) in a towel under the heel for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours
  • wear shoes with a medium heel (2 to 3cm) – both men and women
  • gentle stretching exercises ↗
  • try heel pads


  • do not put weight on the foot – avoid walking or standing for long periods
  • do not go barefoot or wear flat shoes

See a GP if:

  • you see no improvement after treating at home
  • the pain gets worse
  • you're finding it difficult to walk

What happens at your appointment

A GP will examine you to work out what's causing your heel pain.

Most heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis. This is when the ligament that runs from under the heel along the sole of the foot becomes swollen over time.

Referral to a foot specialist

Your GP might refer you to a foot specialist (podiatrist or chiropodist) or a physiotherapist who can recommend things like exercises and the right shoes to wear.

NHS physiotherapy and podiatry may not be available everywhere and waiting times can be long.

You can also pay to see a podiatrist or physiotherapist privately.

Find a registered podiatrist ↗

Find a registered physiotherapist ↗

Go to a minor injuries unit or A&E if you have:

  • severe pain after an injury
  • your foot is a funny shape
  • a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of injury
  • difficulty moving your ankle or foot

These could be signs of a broken bone or ruptured Achilles tendon.

Find a minor injuries unit ↗

Common causes of heel pain

Your symptoms might give you an idea of what's causing your heel pain. But don't self-diagnose – see a GP if you're worried.

Main symptoms Possible cause
Very bad pain taking first steps after waking or after period of not moving, difficulty raising toes off floor Plantar fasciitis
Tenderness and pain at back of heel and along Achilles tendon, pain in calf when standing on tiptoes Achilles tendonitis ↗
Swelling, feels hot, pain on squeezing heel bone, hurts to walk and you've had an injury heel fracture
Pain at back of heel, can raise toes without pain bursitis ↗
Numbness or tingling in foot when moving or resting peripheral neuropathy ↗ or tarsal tunnel syndrome
Stiff, swollen heel, difficult to move foot arthritis ↗