How to Prevent and Treat Heel Spurs

An intermittent stabbing pain or dull aching sensation in the heel of your foot could indicate you have a heel spur. A heel spur is a bony-like growth, or calcium deposit, that runs between the heel bone and the arch of your foot.

Heel spurs affect about 15% of people, many of whom also suffer from plantar fasciitis. A heel spur typically develops over several months and can be caused by excessive strain and stress or by over-stretching of the fibrous band that runs along the bottom of your foot, called the plantar fascia. Heel spurs don’t always cause symptoms. But when they do, the board-certified podiatrists at Optima Foot and Ankle in Bend, OR, can help. Here, they explain how heel spurs develop, how they’re treated, and what you can do to prevent them.

What causes heel spurs?

Heel spurs are typically caused by strain on foot muscles and ligaments, stretching of the plantar fascia, and repeated tearing of the membrane that covers the heel bone.

Are heel spurs and plantar fasciitis related?

Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are connected. Here’s how.

  • Plantar fasciitis occurs when overuse stretches or tears the plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis typically causes severe intermittent stabbing heel pain. The pain is usually worse when you first stand up in the morning and subsides once you walk for a spell.
  • Heel spurs can develop due to stress and inflammation caused by plantar fasciitis. The stress causes extra bone tissue to build up, which becomes a heel spur.

The plantar fasciitis, not the heel spur, is often responsible for your pain.

Who is at most significant risk for developing heel spurs?

Risk factors for heel spurs include:

  • playing sports that require a lot of running and jumping
  • having a job that requires long periods of standing
  • having diabetes
  • having flat feet or high arches
  • having an abnormal gait
  • running on hard surfaces
  • being overweight or obese
  • wearing shoes without proper arch support

The likelihood of developing bone spurs also increases with age.

Treating heel spurs

First-line treatment includes one or more of the following:

  • stretching exercises
  • A change of footwear or custom orthotics
  • taping stressed muscles and tendons
  • night splints
  • over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication
  • icing the bottom of your foot
  • physical therapy

Most people find relief from these conservative treatments. If you don’t, surgery may be recommended.

Preventing heel spurs

Here’s what the podiatrists at Optima Foot and Ankle tell their patients:

  • wear shoes that fit properly and have shock-absorbent soles and solid arch support
  • wear athletic shoes appropriate to your sport
  • don’t run on hard surfaces; switch to grass or a track
  • lose weight if you’re carrying excess pounds
  • consider custom-orthotics

If you suffer from heel pain, call or click online to schedule a visit with a board-certified podiatrist at Optima Foot and Ankle.

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