A recent study discussed a research team’s evaluation of the prevalence, etiology and diagnostic criteria, and management of heel fat pad syndrome (HFPS). They found sparse research literature and inattention to distinguishing HFPS from plantar fasciopathy when describing plantar heel pain.
The researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search in May 2021 and April 2022 using MEDLINE, Scopus, Cinahl, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, SPORTDiscus, PEDro, ClinicalTrials.gov, and the World Health Organization’s International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP). They included all study types and designs describing the prevalence, etiology and diagnostic criteria, and nonpharmacological, nonsurgical interventions for HFPS.
Seven original studies about HFPS were found, and many of the excluded full-text articles were expert-opinion articles or studies of heel fat pad in participants with plantar fasciitis/fasciopathy or unspecified heel pain. HFPS may be the second leading cause of plantar heel pain, based on two studies identified by the researchers.
A number of differentiating pain characteristics and behaviors may aid in diagnosing HFPS versus plantar fasciopathy, the study concluded, including that thinning heel fat pad confirmed by ultrasonography may provide imaging corroboration.
Randomized controlled trials assessing the efficacy of viscoelastic heel cups or arch taping for managing HFPS do not exist, the study’s authors wrote, and there was an absence of robust clinical trials to support the commonly recommended conservative management of HFPS.
The open-access study, “What do we actually know about a common cause of plantar heel pain? A scoping review of heel fat pad syndrome,” was published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research.