Deep Heel Itching
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Deep Heel Itching: What Causes It and How to Heal It

My Self-Diagnosis and Treatment of the Heel Itch Problem

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by Liam S.

For more than 30 years, I have been having issues with deep heel itching. I would like to share my journey how I got rid of this weird and mysterious issue that no doctor was able to help me with. 

If you have following symptoms, than you might be in the same dilemma like I had been:

  • Irresistible itch on the heel, mostly on one foot, sometimes both heels
  • Anti-Inflammatory creams, anti-fungal creams and anti-itching don’t help or provide only a temporary relief
  • Itching feels like it comes from inside the heel rather than on the surface
  • Doesn’t disappear and stays with the patient for 5, 10, 30 years and longer — sometimes rests for years and comes back
  • Patients feel the need to use this or a similar Callus Remover to peel off the callus round the heel to get closer to the itch
  • Often appears before sleep or during the night — sometimes causing sleep disorders due to pain or heavy itching
  • Feeling pulse sensation around the heel
  • Feeling heat sensation and sometimes pain on the surface of the heel
  • Rubbing the heel to a surface (warming it up) causes a temporary relief

If you associate yourself with one or more of these symptoms, you might have one of the rare but harmless conditions called Pruritus Calcaneus.  Assumably it is a bacterial infection that can go as deep as up to the Calcaneus (heel bone).

So far I was able to find out that Pruritus Calcaneus is a harmless infection and would cause no dangerous side effects, it’s not contagious, but it is very annoying for those who have to endure it.

Since it’s hard to detect, it is also misdiagnosed in my opinion. Below are some common misdiagnoses I had to endure over the course of my research and would like to share with you.

Possible Misdiagnoses

Deep Heel Itching is mistaken for other diseases since none of the dermatologists I visited were able to find any inflammation or other irritations on the surface of the heel skin. Due to no findings, I was sent to a neurologist who in my opinion mistakenly diagnosed a nerve damage and also pointed the source to back issues. Below are typical diagnoses that are I think are not associated with and are not the source of Deep Heel Itching:

  • Back Pain
    Suffering from back pain can mistakenly associate the deep heel itching with their back problems, because itching of the foot are often associated with nerve issues on the back. This is most likely not the case with Deep Heel Itching.
  • Sciatic Nerve and Spine-Health related problems
    A very common mistake to make, because the nerve roots in the spine can lead to numbness, tingling, burning, and prickling sensation in the legs and the feet, known as Sciatica Symptoms.
    A variety of lower back problems can lead to pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve. Most often, sciatica pain is caused when the L5 or S1 nerve root in the lower spine is irritated by a herniated disc. The nerve roots that exit the spine to form the sciatic nerve are extremely sensitive, and the inner portion of the disc that may herniate or extrude contains proteins that are inflammatory and easily irritate the nerve.
  • Plantar Fasciitis
    Plantar Fasciitis is a band issue that connects the heel bone with the toes. It has nothing to do with patients who have itching problems on their heel or heels in my opinion.
  • Athlete’s Foot
    Not only the heel is rarely infected by tinea pedis, patients with deep heel itching do not show any signs of a fungal infection, also antifungal medications provide no help or relief.
  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
    Both, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome (TTS) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are wrongly associated with Deep Heel Itching. Especially TTS (also known as posterior tibial neuralgia) since it’s foot related.
  • Bone Spur (Osteophyte)
    Osteophyte is the formation of the bone causing many problems, but very seldom the symptoms described above.
  • Multiple Sclerosis
    This is a very scary diagnosis; however deep heel itching has nothing to do with MS.
  • Neuropathic or Chronic Itch
    Since many patience experience the same symptoms on the exact same location, the source of the problem can’t be a chronic itch caused by a dysfunction of the itch-sending neurons causing a sensory hallucination of pruritogenic stimuli.

Possible Diagnosis

The deep heel itching as far as I could find out is assumable caused by a developed type of the bacteria causing an infection around the heel. Since the bacteria might be nesting in the callus of the heel, it makes the diagnosis very difficult. It is suggested that the bacteria type is Actinomyces. They are known to cause problems in ENT areas, and especially intestines, which explains why doctors are hesitant to associate deep heel itching with it, or do not see a connection.

Actinomyces species are anaerobic bacteria and they can flourish deep under body tissues such as inside the callus, on the heel skin, where even oxygen levels are very low. In case of deep heel itching, the bacteria rests on the callus first, and works its way to the skin.

Once infected and nested, the bacteria usually spreads to other parts of the foot. It seems that the heel and dry skin around the foot provides exactly what the bacteria needs to settle down and live for even decades. From what I could tell, other than severe itching and sometimes pain, the infection is harmless.


Due to its strong persistence to short-time antibiotic treatments, Pruritus Calcaneus is hard to get rid of with antibiotics. Also, antibiotic and other forms of oral treatments would in my opinion not able penetrate the callus which is nothing but dead skin.

A recent study in 2016 researched the resistance patterns of the Actinomyces species as former studies could not provide enough information on the antimicrobial resistance of the Actinomyces bacteria. However, these kinds of treatments are recommended for severe infections with Actinomyces such as in the intestines, face and mouth. It’s not recommended to treat Pruritus Calcaneus with antibiotics  as it seems unnecessary and excessive to expose oneself to the side effects of a long-term antibiotic treatment because of a harmless, nonetheless annoying itching sensation.

The way to get rid of the allegedly identified Actinomyces I could so far find was to apply Melaleuca Alternifolia — I’ll explain why: Actinomyces is in fact a tropical bacterium and was often classified as fungus due to its very similar behavior and conduct on the human body. In my research I could find a very close connection between Melaleuca Alternifolia and Actinomyces. Especially in tropical areas such as Australia, Melaleuca Alternifolia was used by indigenous people to treat many diseases long before bacterial research was conducted in modern societies. Melaleuca Alternifolia is known for its very strong antimicrobial properties as it is composed of terpene hydrocarbons, sesquiterpenes, and alcohols which penetrates skin layers.

The following treatment helped me to get rid of the deep heel itching:


I used this Callus Remover on the heel to get closer to the source of the bacteria as I had identified for myself through years of self-diagnosis and research.

Melaleuca Alternifolia (known as Tea Tree Oil or TTO) can be applied 2 hours before sleep time around the itching area. It is very important to get rid of the dead skin first thoroughly. The callus is often the cause of the infection and needs to be removed on continuous basis. That will prevent the bacteria from multiplying back.

You can buy the callus remover from sunmark. Even though Amazon has some similar looking ones, I recommend the sunmark brand shown right as they are very sharp. If you live in the United States, some CVS and Rite Aid stores have them as well.

If you live in Germany, the recommended brand is Credo — their blades are made in Solingen.

What I started with: I used heel cups before going to bed, and applied 10 drops of TTO or less inside the cup (products displayed further down). I repeated for 6 consecutive weeks.

Deep Heel Itching Therapy

However, I switched to Heel Huggers as the heel cups seem to dissolve when they got in touch with the TTO. The product below was more promising:


Neoprene Heel Hugger

As I said, Amazon sells the silicon heel cups, but the tea tree oil is corrosive and will  penetrate the silicon. The neoprene based Heel Huggers that keep the tree tea oil inside. I have also read that some people simply use socks. However, socks might not have the same effect as the fabric will in my opinion suck the TTO.  

What It Does

The heel hugger conserves the tea tree oil on the surface of the heel and helps to penetrate the skin. Once in contact with the infected area, TTO it seems slowly kills the Actinomyces over the next weeks since Actinomyces are assumable extremely sensitive to Monoterpenes which is the ingredient of TTO. I did this for for 6 weeks, even when I felt relief after a couple days. In my case, symptoms such as pain, heat and itching on the heel had disappeared within days.


Tea Tree Oil

When it comes to Tee Tree Oil, I wanted to make sure that it has the highest amount of monoterpenes and alcohol. Not all Tree Tea Oils provide that, like the ones from Walmart, CVS. They come very cheap, but are not as effective (some have low concentration of progesterone — but you need a high concentration of progesterone to get rid of the cause of deep heel itching which I have identified as Actinomyces). I had good results with the product above.

Itching is gone? Keep it that way!

The cause of the problem after years of trouble is the callus and dry feet in my opinion. I started to remove the callus constantly and did not allow it to grow back. I also used strong foot cream to prevent any type of callus to grow on my feet ever again. Sometimes the itching sensation comes back, and I immediately apply TTO again.

I also want to thank the user comments that helped me to improve my healing method and update my article accordingly over the past few years .

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33 comments for “Deep Heel Itching: What Causes It and How to Heal It

  1. Gregory J,
    December 10, 2020 at 7:54 pm

    OMG it worked ! 10 years and it seems to be going away after 6 days , actually the night after I removed the calluses . I used a cheese grater type callus remover . No heel cups I just rubbed the TTO on with my fingers and wore socks . Thank you so much !

  2. John,
    October 26, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    Very useful information and my symptoms exactly! Pot on, many thanks.

  3. R,
    July 4, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    These are my exact symptoms. Recurred after not having it for over a decade, and triggered by exercise. I’ve tried the treatment as advised above, one foot cleared up after a week, the other just seemed to get worse. Out of desperation I tried an anti-histamine (cetrizine hydrochloride one-a-day) and this has worked wonders. Such a relief.

  4. GWM,
    December 10, 2019 at 1:44 pm

    My feet are and always have been callus free. As soft as a babies butt…still, after 6 weeks…nothings changed

  5. Mary,
    December 1, 2019 at 2:05 am

    Reading these comments helped me. Itching is gone after 20 years.
    It’s all about the callus my friends.

    1. Get rid of the callus!!
    2. Kill the infection using tea tree oil — yes it’s true: it kills bacteria. But anything else works, too.

    After that… to never ever have itching again:

    1. Keep the callus away, and cut it continuously
    2. Always keep your feet soft and don’t let it dry ever again! Use strong foot cream (Eucerin works best for me)
    3. Don’t let the infection come back — clean your feet when after walking barefoot anywhere.

    This is not a rare illness. Guys, it’s infected. And the callus protects the bacteria, that’s why none of your stuff is working. Get rid of the callus, apply whatever kills bacteria. My doc once gave me Erythrocin cream and it didn’t help, so I was frustrated. The doc failed to tell me that Erythrocin cream couldn’t work since the callus was preventing it to go through the skin! It’s not the Tea Trea Oil that is the miracle cure here, it’s the callus remover.

  6. GWM,
    November 28, 2019 at 3:05 am

    I’m about a month in on this and the itch is seemingly moving around. For years it was in one small spot. Since using the oils its moved to the back of the heel so I’d concentrate the oil there. Then, it would move to the far left side of the heel. I cant say it’s really working as the itch is fairly intense. If I had a syringe I shoot it straight in.
    I’m quickly becoming skeptical but will keep going until the oil is gone. After that, I guess I just continue to deal with it.

  7. Jason,
    November 21, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    I tried this method for about 2 weeks. It worked. I stopped using it already because that was it as it worked well. The most important part for me was to use the callus remover. I have one that looks exactly like the one advertised here — but mine is super sharp like a scalpel – it cuts through the skin like butter. Remember, the callus removing was the most important part for me. You have to remove the callus up to the point where it starts kind of hurting because of the light skin that is left afterwards. I also applied the Tea Tree Oil around 3-5 times a day. And not at night. Sometimes skipped 1-2 days. If you don’t apply too much TTO, the silicon doesn’t dissolve by the way. TTO helped to get rid of the itching fast.

    In my case the callus grows back fast and gets very thick on the heel. For that, I started to use callus remove almost every week. Now that I don’t use the TTO anymore, but only the callus remover, the itching has completely disappeared. I also started to use strong foot cream which keeps my feet smooth and doesn’t allow it to dry.

    The itching is gone, because I don’t allow to dry nor let the callus grow back. I think what was causing the itching was an infection caused by dry feet on the callus. My advice: Get rid of the callus continuously, keep the area clean! TTO helps at the beginning, and then it’s up to you to do the rest. I had this problem for more than 20 years by the way.

  8. Geno,
    November 20, 2019 at 1:45 am

    Two weeks in and notice nothing. Dr. S Liam in my opinion is a wuavk

  9. John K,
    November 7, 2019 at 4:04 am

    I am on day 2 of this treatment. So far no improvement, but I am an optimist and its early days yet. I have those exact same symptoms. I was like a dog with worms dragging its butt across the floor, except it was my heel I was dragging across the floor, anything to relieve the itch. The silicone cups have for me disintegrated also, so i might try some cling film. I’ll update this message thread in another week, in hope that there’s some improvement to this annoyance in my life.

  10. L.Williams,
    October 30, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    agree with everyone; the heel cups cannot take the tea tree oil alone; I use saran wrap and the heel cup to keep it in place. the article says Monoterpenes is the ingredient in TTO, but I found Melaleuca alternifolia seems to be the ingredient. I don’t know if that matters. I am on my 3rd week of using this at night; I also bought a cream off amazon to rub in while at my desk at work that contains TTO. The itch is less but in no way gone yet. Will give it one more month and see what happens.

  11. Ben,
    October 12, 2019 at 10:00 am

    I hope this works, as we all know it’s annoying and frustrating. Started tonight, the silicon instantly perished….. But they come in pairs so all good. Might try cling wrap under the next one.not going to give up.

  12. Joanne,
    October 7, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    Wow!! Came across this article the other day, I have been desperate to find a diagnosis for this problem I’ve been experiencing for years, I’ve even been to the doctor and they couldn’t detect anything. I have tried all different bacterial creams and nothing has worked. This is now my third night of using this method and I can honestly say I have felt an immediate relief. I’ve even managed to sleep without the irritating itch waking me up. I will definitely keep it up for the 6 weeks it recommends, hopefully it will be a long term relief.

  13. Ray,
    August 28, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    Have had itching in the left heel for quite a while, doesn’t hurt but has been very annoying. Checked the internet, came across this article and decided to give it a try. Took far too long to get the tea tree oil from Herb Pharm, but it finally arrived yesterday, followed the instructions and much to my surprise have had no itching today! Will continue for six weeks as the article suggests, but this is a great way to start.

  14. Margarete,
    August 23, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    I had the same thoughts. The bacteria theory kind of sounds weird. My doctor told me it’s a long shot and he didn’t believe the bone bacteria theory. He’s still convinced it has to do something with the nerves. He said to go easy on the Tea Tree Oil — he said, it’s organic but still can cause burns and damages on the skin since the product advertised here is concentrated. I’m desperate, so I tried.

    This is my experience: For the Tea Tree Oil to work you need a callus remover — that thing that has a sharp razor on the top. I cut too deep at first and my heel started to hurt and burn because of the skin damage – be careful with that thing, don’t take too much skin from your heel. You have to use the Tea Tree Oil on that light skin on your heel after you have removed the callus.

    Next, the silicon cup heels dissipated, because the Tea Tree Oil has a corrosive effect on them. That didn’t workout as I have imagined, so I started to use duct tape on the silicon cups to hold them together. Using it the whole night thing didn’t workout for me, I started using them before I went to bed for a couple of hours.

    After around 2 weeks, the itching disappeared. I continued as described for another 4 weeks. The itching for now is gone and it has been 4 months since I had the itching sensation. The callus has grown back. But I have now itching on the side of my foot — but I don’t remember if I had that before or just ignored it because of the much stronger itching on my heel. I’m thinking now to try that Tea Tree Oil on the side, too.

    It’s unbelievable that nobody knows what this horror is. The Tea Tree Oil helps, I recommend it. However, I don’t know if it has really healed or the Tea Tree Oil just numbed all the nerves on the heal. If the Tea Tree Oil only numbs the nerves, it might a nerve issue after all. Since so many people have this problem, and no doctor seems to know (besides this article here claiming to know), this might be an anatomic problem that leads to nerve issues on the back.

    If I were to find out in this life, I will write about it. Until then, whatever works. So, Tea Tree Oil it is for now then. Numbing the nerves, bacteria or not, I live again with no itching sensation.

    Good luck!

  15. Heels so Itchy,
    August 23, 2019 at 8:30 am

    The author has provided information about why other conditions in the differential that could be misdiagnoses. However, there is no information provided as to how a the bacteria is confirmed as being present in the heel apart from the fact that “they can flourish deep under body tissues such as under the heel”. Any test to confirm a diagnosis of actinomyces colonization before spending money on tea tree oil? Any published evidence about this approach being effective or indicated for heel itch?

    I have the problems, as described, and have suffered for years. Honestly, I’m going to still try this because I’m at wits end. However, I worry that the claims made by this article are baseless and this is a way to increase sales of the linked products in the article.

  16. Elizabeth Perez,
    August 18, 2019 at 1:01 am

    Hi, I’m curious of the treatment instructions. Should you sleep with the silicon cups on? Take them off in the morning? Would love any more specific instructions on the 6 week treatment. Thank You!

  17. Kathleen L.,
    April 24, 2019 at 8:29 pm

    Can this also happen along the lateral aspect of the feet? I have never had a rash, or flaking skin, but the sides of my feet itch and have been doing so for atleast 10 years. Sometimes it is on my heel too, but mostly on the sides of my feet. It is worse at night when I am in bed, when I’m standing in the shower, and when my feet get feel hot and sweaty. I have tried antifungal creams (they help a little, but never resolve the issue), domboro soaks and hydrocortisone cream, (they also help temporarily).

    Other than a fungal infection to one of my toenails (which I am treating with Jublia), I am a very healthy person.

    Just wondering if I should try this……

  18. Melanie P,
    April 17, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    OMG!!!! The symptoms described is so me!! The itching just started a few days ago and I had no glue what was wrong with me. I have not yet gone to the doctor for it. I decided to google first. I’m so glad I came across this article. I will definitely give this treatment a try.

  19. Cris,
    April 9, 2019 at 6:58 am

    Omg finally!! Thank you for this article! I went to a foot doctor who has no clue what was causing my itchiness! And for 20 years, I have been dealing with this! I want to hug you!

  20. Mary S,
    March 20, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    Wow. I have never been able to find out what is wrong with my feet (heels)! I have been researching for a long time and this is the first article to explain it all. I have every single symptom listed. I have noticed that it sometimes goes away and then comes back as weather is changing (not sure why). Well, it’s back again and driving me crazy. Will definitely try this method. Thank you! Is there any way to Liam?

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