Deep heel bruises result from microscopic calcium fibers breaking apart. These fibers are normally interconnected to help form bones, so when a portion of the fibers is damaged, a deep heel bruise, or deep "bone bruise" occurs. Also known as a periosteal bruise, this condition develops when the outermost layer of the heel bone -- the cortex -- essentially suffers tiny breaks. These breaks occur when the heel is subjected to trauma or repetitive and forceful impacts, usually from rigorous sports activities or strength training exercises.
Initial symptoms consist of localized pain to the heel, usually moderate to severe pain that can persist for several weeks or months. Discomfort may make it difficult for the person to walk or engage in daily activities. Inflammation and swelling are also symptoms associated with deep heel bruising. Occasionally, a small accumulation of blood appears underneath the skin encasing the heel and causes swelling. In addition, since this condition is a "bruise", discoloration of the skin may emerge some time after the injury. A purplish-blue bruise appears because blood has pooled under the skin.
Podiatrists assert that heel pain is one of the most frequent problems about which patients complain. The heel takes the brunt of most physical activity, whether it is from running or the impact of landing on your feet during a jumping motion. According to the Australian Podiatry Association, middle-aged people, heavy exercisers, regular participants in sports and those suffering from obesity are prone to deep heel bruising, with children between 8 and 12 years of age also vulnerable because this is the age when they begin playing sports at school.
Deep Heel Bruising Treatments
Treatment for the pain of a deep heel bruise includes ibuprofen, elevation, resting, applying ice packs and wrapping the heel in a stretch bandage. Total recovery occurs within one to two weeks, as long as the heel bruise isn't exacerbated by extreme physical activity. Very few cases need surgery to repair the heel. Facilitate healing of the bruise by rolling a small frozen can under your foot to ease pain of the plantar fascia.
When recovering from deep heel bruising, wear shoes that conform comfortably to the shape of your foot. They should have shock-absorbent soles with supportive sides, and heels that are not worn. Impact-reducing shoe inserts may help as well. Don't wear flats or sandals when suffering from deep heel bruising, as these shoes provide no protection for the injured heel.