Anatomy & Organs

Heel – structure, function & diseases


The heel is the rear protrusion of the foot . It is also called a hoe. This rear part of the foot has to withstand extreme mechanical stress, since people put their heels down first when walking.

What is the heel?

When a person runs, the heels of their feet always come into contact with the ground first. More specifically, it is the heel bone . It has to withstand the greatest pressure. A natural heel of the human foot. The heel offers the load only a very small contact surface.

But it has strong tendons that ensure the appropriate stability. In addition to the calcaneus bone, the heel consists of the calcaneus tubercle. Without it, man could not walk upright. It supports the rolling movement and stabilizes the Achilles tendon .

The heel bone also causes the shape of the heel. Fatty tissue is stored above the heel bone. The skin stretches over it, which forms a small pit on each side next to the insertion of the Achilles tendon. On the back, the heel ends with the end of the sole of the foot.

Anatomy & Structure

The largest foot bone is the heel bone. Its underside is uneven. The Achilles tendon begins at the back of the heel. It is the large tendon of the calf muscles and the strongest tendon in the human body. The Achilles tendon allows very powerful flexions and lateral rotations of the foot.The heel bone is also part of the lower ankle joint . Furthermore, there are bursae at the tendon insertion of the heel. They are located between tendon and skin and between tendon and bone . The bursae are small cavities filled with fluid. They occur anywhere in the body where there is increased pressure. Like small shock absorbers, bursa serve to equalize pressure.

Starting from the heel hump, the tendon plate stretches along the sole of the foot. It is a tendon plate made of connective tissue-like material. Also named as plantar fascia or plantar plate. This plantar fascia spreads out like a fan. Together with other tendons, strands of the foot muscles and ligaments , it stabilizes the foot with every movement.

Function & Tasks

The function of the heel is to allow movement of the foot. It has to be able to withstand the weight of the body. Another important task of the heel is stabilization when standing and the corresponding cushioning of the pressure volume when moving.

The heel allows a human to walk, walk, run, jump, and perform a number of inward and outward lateral rotations of the foot. How important the heel is for human locomotion only becomes clear when its function is restricted. If it is not possible to step on with the heel, the person needs a walking aid. Running with only the front foot is extremely tiring and cannot be sustained for long.

The heel stabilizes standing and allows all extensions of the foot. Even a violent step or force effects by means of the foot only succeed through the functionality of the heel. Since the heel is exposed to a lot of stress, incorrect stress or overloading occurs again and again through physical work or sporting activities. Furthermore, the right footwear is an important aspect when it comes to heel health. Not many heel deformities are congenital, many are acquired.

Diseases & Ailments

A more common heel condition is a painful heel spur . The lower heel spur is a bone overgrowth. It is located below the heel bone and usually looks like an enlarged rose thorn. The size of the spur is often only a few millimeters. The formation of a heel spur is made possible by calcification of the plantar plate.There is also the variant of the rarer upper heel spur. It is also a bony outgrowth of the heel bone, but in the area of ​​the insertion of the Achilles tendon. Heel spurs are caused by excessive demands on the heel bone. If it is overloaded, this leads to inflammation and cracks. In order to heal these very small cracks, the body forms deposits of calcium. This creates a spur over a longer period of time.

Obesity and bad shoes as well as foot malformations also support the formation of a spur . A heel spur can be treated therapeutically through weight reduction, rest and wearing suitable foot insoles. Furthermore, plantar fasciitis is a disease of the heel that occurs in about 10 percent of all running injuries in sports. This heel pain results from excessive stress. Very fine cracks occur at the base of the sole of the foot on the heel bone, which can trigger inflammatory processes.

Anatomical peculiarities of the feet can also lead to these microcracks. Therapeutically, cooling and pain medication are recommended. Orthopedic insoles and foot bandages also help to stabilize the foot. Pain can also be caused by bursitis , a heel bone fracture or a dislocation of the joint.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.