If you have discomfort in your heel while walking, you may assume you're dealing with plantar fasciitis. While it’s true that plantar fasciitis is the most prevalent condition resulting in heel pain, it’s not the only one. According to a study in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, while your self-diagnosis would be right 73% of the time, heel pain can also be the result of other conditions. In addition, these other painful heel problems can exist with plantar fasciitis simultaneously.

So next time you have a flare-up of heel pain, don’t just assume you know the cause. Make sure to get it checked out by a podiatrist like Dr. Rion Berg to make sure you get the proper treatment.

Here are some additional conditions that can frequently generate heel pain.

Achilles tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis arises when the tendon connecting your heel and calf muscles becomes inflamed. It can result in pain in your ankle and heel due to inflammation in your tendon, accompanied by tendon swelling. Failure to seek treatment puts you at risk of tendon rupture. While this condition is different from plantar fasciitis, many of the treatments used to treat it will be the same.


The bursa, a lining found in numerous joints, makes smoother movement of muscles and tendons possible. Heel bursitis triggers inflammation of the bursa located at the back of your heel, leading to heel pain, particularly after prolonged periods of standing or walking. A common condition that can lead to bursitis is Haglunds’ Deformity or “pump bump” caused by shoes rubbing on the back of the heel.

Plantar Fibroma

Plantar fibromas are most common in middle-aged people, particularly women. A fibroma can be found anywhere on the body and it’s benign. When it’s found on the plantar fascia is can cause pain.  While they can be treated with cortisone they often recur. Custom orthotics can help relieve the pressure caused by the fibroma.

Plantar Fascia Rupture

Severe heel pain can be caused by a ruptured plantar fascia. These occur as the result of jumping or falling from a high location or during activities like running or basketball. Symptoms can include a popping sound and sharp pain with bruising and swelling in the foot arch. Immediate treatment is necessary to avoid further injury and always involves immobilizing the affected foot in a boot. Physical therapy and the use of custom orthotics will also be needed.

Foot Sprains and Fractures

If you’re an athlete you’re more likely to experience a sprain or fracture in or near the heel. These can all induce severe pain and swelling in the heel, especially when pressure is applied. Fractures and certain other heel injuries need immediate medical attention for proper healing. Our office can see emergencies same day to get a possible fracture X-rayed.

Heel spurs

Heel spurs are bony protrusions that can develop on your heel. Heel spurs often develop alongside plantar fasciitis but don’t often cause pain. If they are painful you’ll feel it on the bottom of the heel where you bear weight.

Sever’s Disease

Youth athletes are most at risk for Sever’s Disease. In this condition, the heel plate hasn’t yet fully closed making added stress to this area quite painful for some kids. While this condition can mimic plantar fasciitis, it can also co-exist with it. Your podiatrist will need to evaluate your child to determine the exact cause of the heel pain to ensure proper treatment.

When experiencing heel pain that surpasses minor and occasional discomfort, it is always a good idea to have your condition evaluated rather than assuming it's plantar fasciitis. Heel pain can exist as a warning that another problem may present that needs treatment beyond that of plantar fasciitis.

Fortunately, there are great ways to prevent these conditions from occurring and treatment will allow you to get back to doing what you love.

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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