Understanding Pump Bump

When you have heel pain, there are a variety of potential causes for it – which partially explains why so many people suffer from this problem. Depending on where you experience the pain, it could be caused by something like plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis. Those are common overuse injuries, but there are other sources of heel pain as well.

In fact, another possible cause is a condition known as Haglund’s deformity. More commonly, this is called pump bump and this issue stems from a particular bone spur.

Perhaps you have heard of bone spurs before, but we find that not many people are completely familiar with what they actually are or why they develop.

Well, your body has several different amazing ways it can protect itself. One internal defense mechanism you probably are not aware of is the formation of a bone spur. In this case, your body generates extra bone tissue as a response to prolonged periods of stress or pressure.


Calcium deposits build up on an existing bone over time, thereby forming a spur. You aren’t aware this is happening—and, in many cases, or even that one has developed—because a bone spur doesn’t hurt by itself. Actually, a spur typically only becomes a problem when it presses into soft tissue around it.

This situation can happen in the back of your heels, especially if you wear tight shoes featuring rigid backs on a frequent basis. Essentially, your body feels threated by the constant fore and irritation, so it starts building up a bony protrusion in the area.

Shoes that tend to be particular egregious offenders are high-heeled models, such as pumps – which helps to explain the “pump bump” moniker.

In all fairness, pumps and stilettos (and other high heels) are not the only footwear that can cause this condition. There are many pairs of men’s dress shoes that also feature rigid backings. Additionally, the heel counters in some running shoes—while being a necessary component for controlling motion—are rather firm and may lead to a problem, particularly if you do a lot of “hill work” in your exercise training or program.

Now, the body has the best of intentions in creating a bone spur in the area, but this can be rather problematic for a bursa that sits between the Achilles tendon and heel bone.

A bursa, in case you are wondering, is a fluid-filled sac that acts as both a source of cushioning and lubrication of sorts (when it allows tissue—like the Achilles tendon—to slide more easily). You have one in the back of your foot.

As the body becomes irritated by pressure from rigid-backed, tight footwear, a bone spur develops and then can press against the bursa. In turn, the bursa becomes inflamed – which is known as bursitis. As you might imagine, this causes pain and discomfort.

With regards to symptoms to note, the abnormal bony protrusion at the back of your heel is an indication of a problem. Beyond pain and discomfort, you may also be aware of swelling and redness in the area as well.

If you recognize these symptoms in the back of your foot, contact our office and we can create a treatment plan for you.

Fortunately, this is not usually a situation that requires surgical intervention. In fact, conservative treatment options can be quite effective. These include:

  • Ice. You can help relieve pressure and swelling in the area by icing it for 20 minutes, waiting 40 minutes, and then icing again. In addition to decreasing the swelling and inflammation, this will ease the pain you are experiencing. It’s important to make sure you wrap the ice or ice pack in a thin towel first, though, to protect the skin from damage when using cold therapy.
  • Exercise. It may seem counterintuitive to use activity when you are in pain, but a contributing factor to the condition may be a tight Achilles tendon. Stretching this heel cord can relieve tension and make you more comfortable.
  • Medication. Always consult with our office before using medicine, but over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may effectively reduce your pain and inflammation.
  • Heel pads. Pads provide cushioning to reduce irritation in the area that is caused by walking.
  • Shoe modification. Switching from tight pumps to shoes with soft backs can improve your comfort.
  • Orthotics. Customized shoe inserts from our office can help control your foot’s motion and provide relief for the condition.

We don’t want you to experience the heel pain that accompanies this ailment, so here are some easy tips to help prevent it:


  • Make smart shoe choices. Ill-fitting and uncomfortable footwear leads to many foot and ankle conditions that we treat regularly. When you wear shoes that are too narrow, too tight, and have rigid backs, you are setting yourself up for injuries like Haglund’s deformity. Instead, opt for footwear that is comfortable, provides room in the toe box, and has cushioning in the heel area. Save the pumps for special, rare occasions!
  • Wear socks that provide ample cushioning. You can help reduce the pressure the back of your foot would otherwise experience with socks that properly cushion your heel. Even better is when your socks have non-slip soles to keep your feet from sliding back within your shoes.
  • Limit your time spent running uphill. When you run uphill, your feet will press against the back of your running shoes with greater force. There is value in training on uphill courses, but do so sparingly.
  • Stretch your feet and calf muscles regularly. When you keep your Achilles tendon limber, it reduces the likelihood of pump bump. As added benefit, it also decreases your risk of several other common foot conditions like tendinitis and plantar fasciitis!

Prevention methods may help keep pump bump at bay, but contact our office if you have already developed this condition. We will help you find the pain relief that you need!

Our first step in treating pump bump—or any lower limb condition or injury—is to diagnose the problem and determine exactly what is happening and why it exists. From there, we work to create a customized treatment plan to relieve pain, restore normal foot function, and reduce the risk of the issue returning.

Remember, most medical conditions (including this one) are best addressed at the earliest opportunity. Otherwise, they will continue to progress in severity.

Of course, you probably want relief from the pain sooner rather than later, so contact Premier Podiatry Group today by calling our Ebensburg office at (814) 472-2660 or connect with us online right now!