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What are Heel Spurs?

The heel is made up of the calcaneus bone and supported by a network of muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissues, which together support the weight of the body and stress during movement. A heel spur is a bony protrusion on the underside of the heel bone, which may not be visible to the naked eye.

Causes of Heel Spurs

Heel spurs occur when calcium deposits build up on the underside of the heel bone, a condition that develops over time. Heel spurs are caused by stretching of the plantar fascia or foot ligaments and muscle strains. Risk factors for heel spurs include:

  • Obesity
  • Wearing shoes that don’t support your foot
  • Running, especially on hard surfaces
  • Problems with the functioning of the feet

Symptoms of Heel Spurs

Intermittent or chronic pain may be felt when walking or running, especially on hard surfaces. The cause of pain is not due to the heel spur itself, but by soft tissue injury and inflammation, for example, plantar fasciitis. It may be sharp when you first stand up early in the morning, becoming dull later in the day.

Diagnosis of Heel Spurs

Your doctor may order imaging studies such as X-ray to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Heel Spurs

Treatment includes:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Your doctor may recommend shoes with good support and cushioning. Custom orthotics (shoe inserts) may also be helpful.
  • Taping or strapping to support the foot
  • Surgery may be recommended if all other treatments fail – this may include removal of the bone spur or release of the plantar fascia

Prevention of Heel Spurs

The following steps can help to prevent heel spurs:

  • Wearing properly-fitted shoes
  • Reducing your weight if overweight or obese
  • Refraining from exercising on hard surfaces
  • Keeping foot muscles and joints flexible
  • Warming up and doing stretching exercises before each activity

Other Foot & Ankle Conditions