What is a bruised heel?

A bruised heel is an injury to either the fat pad that protects the heel bone, or stress to the heel bone (calcaneus) itself when the fat pad fails to protect the bone from forces. Whatever the cause the end result is heel pain.

Stress to the bone in cases where the fat pad fails to protect the heel can lead to deep bone bruising or heel bone stress. Repeated heel bone stress may then lead to a heel stress fracture.

Do you suffer from a bruised heel or heel bone stress?

Signs & symptoms of a bruised heel

The following signs or symptoms can indicate a bruised heel:

  • Heel pain on the bottom of the heel or a deep pain in the heel bone.
  • Heel pain with weight bearing or walking.
  • In acute cases there may be associated swelling or bruising evident.
  • In acute cases you may find it difficult to bear weight on the heel.
  • Heel pain symptoms are usually better in cushioned footwear.
Bruised heel treatment Camberwell

Causes of a bruised heel

A bruised heel is either caused by injury to the heel fat pad or stress to the heel bone (calcaneus). This may be due to either an acute or chronic injury.

Acute causes of a bruised heel include:

  • Jumping or falling and landing awkwardly on the heel from a height.
  • A forceful blow to the heel such as a kick.
  • Stepping or landing on a stone or similar object causing a heel injury.

Chronic causes of a bruised heel include:

  • Walking or running with poor foot mechanics and poor shock absorption.
  • Walking or running on hard surfaces.
  • Repetitive forces on the heel such as jumping.
  • Poor footwear and shock absorption.
  • Increase in training, walking or running.

Factors that increase your risk of a bruised heel include:

  • Heel fat pad atrophy
  • Being overweight
  • Excess foot pronation or flat feet.

Heel fat pad atrophy is a common cause of heel pain

Heel fat pad atrophy is a common factor in a lot of plantar heel pain cases seen by our podiatrists. The heel fat pad is a thick layer of fatty tissue designed to protect the heel bone (calcaneus) from forces. In heel fat pad atrophy the fat pad under the heel bone is reduced and fails to shock absorb the heel. This results in more forces being absorbed by the heel bone leading to bone bruising.

Heel fat pad atrophy treatment Melbourne

Heel pad atrophy can be the result of genetic anatomical factors, the ageing process or other health conditions such as diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis that can cause shrinking of the heel pad.

Heel pain symptoms in cases of heel fat pad atrophy are often exacerbated by poor foot mechanics or excess foot pronation (inward roll of the foot). This causes more forces to be directed on the medial heel bone rather than being distributed across all of the heel. Repetitive activities such as walking or running may then lead to an increase in heel bone stress.

Bruised heel diagnosis

A bruised heel or heel bone stress is usually easily diagnosed clinically by our Melbourne podiatrists, who are experts in identifying heel pain conditions of the foot. Our podiatrists also have diagnostic ultrasound on site which can help diagnose heel fat pad atrophy as well as other heel pain conditions. In acute cases or where there is suspicion of a heel fracture or stress fracture our podiatrists will refer you for an MRI scan to aid diagnosis.

Gait analysis is often a useful tool in chronic cases of heel bone bruising to help identify any underlying biomechancial factors that may be associated with causing the condition.

Podiatry treatment for a bruised heel or heel bone stress

Treatment for a bruised heel by our Melbourne podiatrists is aimed at initially reducing forces on the heel bone to allow for healing. In chronic cases of heel bone stress or bruising we will also look to address any underlying biomechanical factors that may exacerbate symptoms.

Common podiatry treatment options include:

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Do you need treatment for a bruised heel?

At our Melbourne foot clinic our podiatrists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of heel pain conditions affecting the foot, including a bruised heel or heel bone stress.

So if you are suffering from a bruised heel or you think you may have heel fat pad atrophy book an appointment with one of our friendly podiatrists today!