Heel spurs refer to the abnormal accumulation of calcium deposits on the heel of the foot. Vigorous, repetitive movements often result in the formation of heel spurs, but inflammatory diseases (e.g.,
arthritis) may also increase the occurrence of painful heel spurs. Treatments that have proven to be effective for heel spurs include injections that contain a combination of steroids and anesthesia
as well as radiofrequency ablation. However, a bone spur that begins to protrude excessively may need to be removed through surgery.
Bone spurs can form anywhere in the feet in response to tight ligaments, repetitive stress injuries (typically from sports), obesity, even poorly fitting shoes. For instance, when the plantar fascia
on the bottom of the foot pulls repeatedly on the heel, the ligament becomes inflamed, causing plantar fasciitis. As the bone tries to mend itself, a bone spur forms on the bottom of the heel,
typically referred to as a heel spur. This is a common source of heel pain.
Symptoms may be similar to those of plantar fasciitis and include pain and tenderness at the base of the heel, pain on weight bearing and in severe cases difficulty walking. The main diagnosis of a
heel spur is made by X-ray where a bony growth on the heel can be seen. A heel spur can occur without any symptoms at all and the athlete would never know they have the bony growth on the heel.
Likewise, Plantar fasciitis can occur without the bone growth present.
Diagnosis is made using a few different technologies. X-rays are often used first to ensure there is no fracture or tumor in the region. Then ultrasound is used to check the fascia itself to make
sure there is no tear and check the level of scar tissue and damage. Neurosensory testing, a non-painful nerve test, can be used to make sure there is not a local nerve problem if the pain is thought
to be nerve related. It is important to remember that one can have a very large heel spur and no plantar fasciitis issues or pain at all, or one can have a great deal of pain and virtually no spur at
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment of heel spurs is the same as treatment of plantar fasciitis. Because these problems are related, the treatment is the same. The first step in the treatment of a heel spur is short-term rest
and inflammation control. Here are the steps patients should take in order to cure the symptoms of plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. Avoiding the activity that caused the symptoms is the first step
in treatment. For example, take a few day off jogging or prolonged standing/walking. Just resting usually helps to eliminate the most severe pain, and will allow the inflammation to begin to cool
down. Icing will help to diminish some of the symptoms and control the heel pain. Icing is especially helpful after a sudden flare up of symptoms. Exercises and stretches are designed to relax the
tissues that surround the heel bone. Some simple exercises, performed in the morning and evening, often help patients feel better quickly. Many patients will work with a physical therapist, or you
can try some simple activities on your own. If you need some help, meet with a therapist for a few sessions to learn a program you can continue on your own.
Usually, heel spurs are curable with conservative treatment. If not, heel spurs are curable with surgery, although there is the possibility of them growing back. About 10% of those who continue to
see a physician for plantar fascitis have it for more than a year. If there is limited success after approximately one year of conservative treatment, patients are often advised to have
Walk around before you buy shoes. Before you purchase your shoes, do the following. Re-lace the shoes if you're trying on athletic shoes. Start at the farthest eyelets and apply even pressure to the
laces as you come closer to the tongue of the shoe. Make sure that you can wiggle your toes freely inside of the shoe. Also, make sure that you have at enough space between your tallest toe and the
end of the shoe. You should have room equal to about the width of your thumb in the tip of your shoe. Walk around to make sure that the shoe has a firm grip on your heel without sliding up and down.
Walk or run a few steps to make sure your shoes are comfortable. Shoes that fit properly require no break-in period.