A review of plantar heel pain of neural origin: differential diagnosis and management

Man Ther. 2008 May;13(2):103-11. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2007.01.014. Epub 2007 Mar 30.


Plantar heel pain is a symptom commonly encountered by clinicians. Several conditions such as plantar fasciitis, calcaneal fracture, rupture of the plantar fascia and atrophy of the heel fat pad may lead to plantar heel pain. Injury to the tibial nerve and its branches in the tarsal tunnel and in the foot is also a common cause. Entrapment of these nerves may play a role in both the early phases of plantar heel pain and recalcitrant cases. Although the contribution of nerve entrapment to plantar heel pain has been well documented in the literature, its pathophysiology, diagnosis and management are still controversial. Therefore, the purpose of this article was to critically review the available literature on plantar heel pain of neural origin. Possible sites of nerve entrapment, effectiveness of diagnostic clinical tests and electrodiagnostic tests, differential diagnoses for plantar heel pain, and conservative and surgical treatment will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Neurological
  • Foot Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Foot Diseases / therapy
  • Heel / innervation*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Nervous System Diseases / therapy
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain Management
  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome / diagnosis