Magnetohydrodynamic Alfvén waves1 have been a focus of laboratory plasma physics2 and astrophysics3 for over half a century. Their unique nature makes them ideal energy transporters, and while the solar atmosphere provides preferential conditions for their existence4, direct detection has proved difficult as a result of their evolving and dynamic observational signatures. The viability of Alfvén waves as a heating mechanism relies upon the efficient dissipation and thermalization of the wave energy, with direct evidence remaining elusive until now. Here we provide the first observational evidence of Alfvén waves heating chromospheric plasma in a sunspot umbra through the formation of shock fronts. The magnetic field configuration of the shock environment, alongside the tangential velocity signatures, distinguish them from conventional umbral flashes5. Observed local temperature enhancements of 5% are consistent with the dissipation of mode-converted Alfvén waves driven by upwardly propagating magneto-acoustic oscillations, providing an unprecedented insight into the behaviour of Alfvén waves in the solar atmosphere and beyond.