What is a Heel Spur?

Heel Spur Bone SpursWhat is a heel spur

A heel spur is a small bony growth on the underside of your heel. Although many people who suffer from plantar fasciitis also suffer from heel spurs, these bony growths are not the trigger for the inflammation of the plantar fascia. Instead, it appears that plantar fasciitis can actually trigger bone spurs.

Bone spurs are actually common, but only 1 in 20 people who have them will actually experience pain from them. The growth of the bone will usually begin in the front of the heel bone and grow toward the arch of the foot. You may discover that you have a heel spur when you have an x-ray done of your foot.

Spurs can develop from unusual stress placed on the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the foot. This is an apt description of plantar fasciitis. The inflammation of plantar fasciitis is often triggered by excessive and repetitive stretching and tearing of the plantar fascia. This mechanical imbalance in the foot can be the same thing that triggers the growth of the bone in your heel.

Risk factors for the development of heel spurs are very similar to those for plantar fasciitis. Poorly fitting shoes, being overweight, activities that require you are on your feet for long periods of time (like working as a cashier or waitress), flat feet or high arches, vigorous exercising on your feet or mechanical defects in your foot that creates stress on the muscles and tendons in a way the foot was not designed to withstand can all be triggers.

A heel spur may be diagnosed when you have an x-ray of the foot and with a careful history and physical, often because you present with pain in your foot.

Treatments include rest from the activities that trigger the pain. When you may also suffer from plantar fasciitis, the treatment of that condition may help alleviate the pain from the bone spurs.

You may also find relief from using heel cups to pad and protect the heel while walking. Icing the heel will also help to reduce the inflammation in the foot and relieve pain. Taping the foot to support the heel can also help to reduce the stress on the foot.

Surgical treatment will be considered after about 12 months of aggressive treatment and may include resection of the spur with plantar fasciotomy, tendon lengthening and/or a fat transfer to effect results to reduce pain and discomfort. The goal is to allow you to return to your previous level of activity without pain.