What Causes Heel Numbness?

Loss of sensation in part of your foot can be an unsettling feeling. While pain may often be a more pressing and immediate indication that something is wrong, heel numbness can affect your balance and gait. It can also make you unaware of whether you are causing further damage to the area, making you more susceptible to complications from other injuries. Numbness in your heel can stem from a number of different issues and may only be temporary or worsen over time, depending on the cause.

Table of Contents

What Does Heel Numbness Feel Like?

In many cases, you may experience heel numbness symptoms that are not limited to full loss of sensation in the area. In addition to numbness, you should note whether you are experiencing burning, tingling, or a prickling, pins-and-needles sensation, or if the heel feels abnormally weak and difficult to move or stand on.

What Are the Causes of Heel Numbness?

Your nervous system is a complex network that extends throughout your body. Numbness in part of your feet can be the result of any obstacle which impedes the nerves’ ability to send signals from the extremities to the brain. While some causes are relatively benign and will resolve on their own, numbness could also be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.

1. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

The tarsal tunnel is a narrow canal which runs between the ankle bone and the ligaments of the foot. When the tibial nerve, which is located within this canal, becomes pinched or compressed due to swelling or injury, it causes a condition called tarsal tunnel syndrome, of which a primary symptom is numbness of the heel. This condition can be brought on by arthritis or foot abnormalities such as fallen arches, and is often confused for plantar fasciitis, with which it shares some symptoms.

2. Nerve Compression

Because of the way that the nervous system is connected throughout our anatomy, heel numbness can also result from a pinched nerve in another part of the body. Injuries and conditions such as a herniated disk or sciatica can cause compression of nerves located in the lower back and spinal cord, blocking nerve signals from making it all the way back to your brain. This frequently manifests as numbness of parts of the legs and feet.

3. Lack of Blood Flow

Proper blood flow is required to supply oxygen and vital nutrients to every part of the body. Restriction of circulation through the veins and arteries can result in a loss of sensation, especially in the parts of the body that are furthest away from the heart. Reduced blood flow can have myriad causes ranging from frostbite to heart to circulatory system issues like atherosclerosis, peripheral artery disease, or blood clots.

4. Pregnancy

The act of bringing a pregnancy to term and giving birth can have many dramatic effects on the structure of the body. Heel pain is one of many symptoms that one may experience over the course of pregnancy. It is not unusual for nerves to be compressed as the body changes during pregnancy, often resulting in tarsal tunnel syndrome or peripheral neuropathy. These are among many uncomfortable aspects of pregnancy, but can usually be treated if they do not resolve over time on their own.

5. Diabetes

Diabetic neuropathy is a condition which causes damage to the nerves of the hands and feet. It is quite common among people with diabetes, possibly affecting as big a proportion as 50%. This serious condition most frequently affects older people and may emerge gradually, with numbness or tingling being faint at first and growing progressively worse over time. If not properly managed, diabetic neuropathy can cause severe complications, leaving you vulnerable to wounds and infections that may lead to amputation in extreme cases.

Bursitis - How Is Heel Numbness Treated?

If you are experiencing heel numbness, a podiatrist can help diagnose the root issue. They will review the particulars of your symptoms, such as when the numbness began, whether it is constant or intermittent, and whether or not there is any pain or tingling accompanying the loss of sensation.

The nature of the issue will help to determine the best course for intervention. Conservative methods may include resting, icing, or changing footwear. Over-the-counter drugs or cortisone injections may be used to reduce inflammation. If your heel numbness is related to diabetic neuropathy, one of our podiatrists can help you manage the issue to prevent serious future complications.

If you are experiencing heel numbness, Weil Foot and Ankle is here to help. Click the Appointment button to schedule an appointment with us!

Meet Weil Foot & Ankle Institute

Weil Foot & Ankle Institute was founded in 1965, by Dr. Lowell Weil Sr, who was inspired by a need to progress the Foot & Ankle Care category into the future through innovation. As one of the first Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), Dr. Weil…

By: Weil Foot & Ankle Institute, Published: Oct 29th, 2021
Review By: Kristin Abruscato DPT – Jan 19th, 2023