Approximately 15% of the population walks with a heel spur—a calcium growth on the bottom of the heel bone. These bony protrusions can sometimes cause no symptoms; however, most irritate and inflame the surrounding area of the heel, including the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that connects the heelbone to the toes. Treating heel spurs

Heel spurs can make it miserable or impossible to walk comfortably and they affect your everyday mobility and overall quality of life. Patients often describe heel spur pain as a sharp pin or knife poking into their heel when they stand up in the morning—a pain that changes to a dull ache as the day goes on. At Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists, our goal is healthy feet for life. And that means correctly diagnosing and treating painful heel spurs, so our patients can return to the activities they love.

Understanding Heel Spurs and Heel Pain

A heel spur develops when a calcium deposit builds up on the underside of the heel bone, causing a bony protrusion. This protrusion often forms over time and is usually diagnosed through an X-ray. Heel spurs are commonly linked with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation that runs along the bottom of the foot. Common symptoms of heel spurs include pain in the affected area, inflammation, and swelling at the front of the heel.

Causes of Heel Spurs

Heel spurs are caused by strain put on your foot’s muscles and ligaments. They may also be caused by the repeated tearing of the membrane that covers and protects the heel bone. This can happen to people who spend all day on their feet, overuse their feet, or don’t properly protect their feet.

Heels spurs are more likely to develop in:

  • Athletes
  • Those who regularly jog or run long distances
  • Those who regularly walk or run on hard surfaces
  • Those who wear shoes that don't fit properly and/or have no arch support
  • Those with walking and gait abnormalities
  • Patients with diabetes
  • Those with arthritis
  • People with high arches
  • People who have flat feet
  • People who are older
  • People who carry extra weight

Diagnosing and Treating Heel Spur Symptoms 

A podiatrist will diagnose a heel spur by examining your foot and discussing your symptoms. Your doctor will likely use an X-ray or another imaging system to confirm that the bony protrusion is a spur. Once your podiatrist determines you have a heel spur, treatment will usually start with non-invasive, nonsurgical heel spur treatment and interventions such as rest, cold compresses, and lifestyle changes. But if your heel spur persists for longer than a month, treatment may include medication, physical therapy, and/or night splints.

Common Questions About Heel Spurs

What Happens if I Leave My Heel Spur Untreated?

For many patients, the pain of a heel spur can be more than uncomfortable. Often, this bony protrusion can be debilitating and significantly affect your mobility. Without treatment, you may not be able to bear weight on the affected foot, stand, walk, or run, and eventually you may suffer from chronic pain.   

Will a Bone Spur Resolve on Its Own?

Once a heel spur has formed, it won’t dissolve, shrink, or resolve on its own. You need a podiatrist’s care to treat it. Your podiatrist will determine the root cause of the spur, including whether there is pressure on the tendon or you have Achilles tendinitis.   

What Can I Do to Prevent Heel Spurs?

Wearing the right shoes can help prevent heel spurs, especially if you have an irregular gait, flat feet, or high arches. You can also help prevent heel spurs by avoiding exercise on hard surfaces and being aware of overuse injuries that put too much stress on your feet, such as jogging, running, or jumping.

Like many other foot conditions, you can always get healthier feet by working toward a healthier you: controlling conditions like diabetes, eating healthy foods, managing your weight, and getting enough rest.