Why Do MY Heels Hurt When I Wake Up

You may have asked this question “why do my heels hurt when I wake up?”. You are not the only one experiencing this pain, others do as well. You may feel pain or stiffness in your heels especially when you wake up or take your first steps in the morning. 

The pain may be caused by Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis or injury like stress fracture. You can treat the heel pain using home remedies like ice and massage but if the pain is getting worse, you may have to see a doctor or podiatrist for diagnosis and treatment. This article will explain the common reasons why your heels hurt when you wake up.


1. Achilles Tendinitis

When the large tendon that runs down the back of the lower leg becomes inflamed, this is known as Achilles tendinitis. This large tendon is called Achilles tendon and it is the largest tendon in the human body, it joins the muscles of the calf to the hell bone. Achilles tendon is used when you run, walk, jump, climb stairs and stand on your top toes. 

The Achilles tendon can withstand stress but it can be overused leading to a condition known as tendinitis. Achilles tendinitis is not caused by injury by constant stress to the tendon, that is making your body to do much work quickly. 

Some factors can increase your risk of developing Achilles tendinitis, some of these factors are:

  • Increase in the amount of exercise or activity without giving your body enough time to adjust to the intensity.
  • Tight calf muscles that put more stress and pressure on the tendon
  • Enlargement of the bone on the back of the heel, this condition is also known as Haglund’s deformity.
  • Achilles tendinitis causes your heels to hurt especially in the morning because there is limited circulation to this part of the body when you are at rest.

2. Plantar Fasciitis

This is a painful inflammation that affects the large ligament structure in the base of the foot, it causes you to feel pain in your arch and heel. Due to irritation, the plantar fascia can become thick and inflamed. The inflammation can cause small tears to develop in some people, this results to excruciating pain. Plantar fasciitis causes you to feel pain under the ball of the heel and sensation like a stone bruise.

The heel pain comes first thing in the morning especially when you try to climb out of bed or after long periods of rest. There may be sometimes the pain goes away and it feels like you are healing but it comes back with a sudden onset of pain. Plantar fasciitis is caused by strain on the plantar fascia (the part of the foot that joins the heel bones to the toes).

There are also factors that can put you at risk of having this heel inflammation:

  • Exercising with undersized shoes 
  • Overstretching the sole of the feet while exercising
  • Increase activities like running, walking or standing for long hours
  • Exercising on hard surfaces 
  • Being overweight

3. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

This is an autoimmune condition that causes the the joints in and around the foot to become inflamed, swollen and painful. The immune system can mistake the healthy tissues to be foreign invaders and attack them, this can lead to autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system fights the synovium, which is the membrane lining of joints.

The result of the attack is the synovial cells proliferating leading to synovial thickening and then pain and inflammation. If this condition is not treated, the inflammation can enter into the cartilage and destroy it. The ligaments and tendons that holds the joints can get weak and start to stretch. With time, the joint loses its shape and arrangements, and the damage becomes severe.

Why Do MY Heels Hurt When I Wake Up
Why Do MY Heels Hurt When I Wake Up

4. Stress Fracture

A stress fracture is a small break in the bone, it is very common as the lower leg and foot have weight bearing bones. About 73 percent of stress fractures occur in the lower leg and foot. Stress fracture is caused by overuse of the foot and lower leg during sports and physical activities, this is why athletes and military recruits experience more of this condition.

It can also develop due to weakening of the bone due to age or another condition called osteoporosis. The pain may be dull and go from time to time or it can be severe pain that stops you from walking or standing. You are most likely to feel this pain in the morning.

Causes of Stress Fractures are:

  • Poor techniques during exercise
  • The use of improper equipment during exercises or workout
  • Bone insufficiency which may be caused by osteoporosis and the use of certain medications
  • Subjecting the bones to a new activity without giving them time to adjust.

5. Flat Feet

Also known as fallen arches, this condition occurs when you have low or no arches. Instead of heel and the front pad of your foot touching the ground when you stand, the low or absence of arch causes the sole of the foot to touch the ground.

Although flat feet does not cause pain but there will be painful swelling in the arch and heel. The pain and swelling is caused by the absence of support for the ligaments and muscles in the foot, resulting to strain. You can easily notice the pain in the morning when you wake up.

6. Bone Spurs

Bone spurs also known as osteophytes are smooth, extra bones that form on the end of the bone. They are found in joints where two bones meet. Bone spurs may not cause serious problems but they can cause pain if they rub against other bones or press on nerves. Bone spurs can be caused by injury to a joint or tendon. Your body may try to repair your damaged bone by adding extra bone to the injured area. Joint damage can also cause bone spurs to form. 

Other factors that can cause bone spurs are:

  • Overusing the bones while doing physical activities
  • Genes
  • Diets
  • Narrowing of the spine
  • Overweight and obesity

7. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition whereby the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone in the bloodstream, this can cause your heel to hurt when you wake up. The disruption of chemicals and hormones can lead to swelling and inflammation in the feet, ankles and heels.


If you are feeling mild to moderate pain, home remedies will be helpful and effective in relieving the pain. However, if the pain is sharp and sudden, you have to see a doctor. Some home remedies are

1. Massage

Massaging your heel and feet will help to reduce the stress and pain on the heels. You can roll a tennis ball or lacrosse ball under your feet from the toes to your heel. Roll the ball across along the bottom of your feet to release the tension and stress. You can also use a foam roller for your feet. A traditional massage can also be helpful, you have to hold your foot in one hand and apply gentle pressure along the foot and heel area using your thumb.

2. Ice Therapy

Ice water or cubes can be used as a therapy for relieving heel pain and swelling. Fill a small bottle with water and keep the filled bottle in a freezer overnight. Bring out the bottle and wrap with a towel. Roll the the wrapped bottle gently along your foot and heel. You can also put ice cubes in a clean towel and roll the ice cubes along your feet and heel.

3. Stretching

Stretching exercises can help with heel pain. You can turn the following stretches:

1. Heel Cord and Foot Arch Stretch

  • Face the wall and step back with one foot while you bend with the other. Make sure both feet and heels are on the ground.
  • Slightly lean forward and stretch
  • Stay in the position for 10 seconds and relax
  • Repeat same steps with the other foot

2. Plantar Fascia Tension Stretch

  • Sit on a chair or on a bed, cross the affected leg over the other knee.
  • Use the hand on your affected side to pull your toes back gently toward your shin.
  • Stay in this position for 10 seconds and relax
  • Repeat as much time as you want and switch to the other leg if affected.


There are some preventative measures that will help you prevent having heel pain, they include:

  • Wear supportive shoes with low heels and if you must wear high heels, do not wear for long periods of time.
  • Keep a healthy weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Having excess weight or being obese can put more stress on the heel and foot.
  • Change your running or athletic shoes every 400 to 500 miles.
  • Complement running with low impact activities like cycling and swimming
  • Perform stretches before and after exercising.


The question “why do my heels hurt when I wake up?” has been answered with treatment methods as well. You should adhere to the preventive measures to avoid causing pain to your heels when you wake up. If you still feel pain after using the home remedies, you should see a doctor or a podiatrist for diagnosis and treatment. 

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