A heel spur (calcaneal spur) is a calcium deposit that forms on the heel bone (calcaneus), extending toward the arch of the foot, and typically develops in one of two locations:
- Dorsal Heel Spur – the back of the heel (near the Achilles tendon)
- Plantar Heel Spur – the bottom of the heel (along the sole)
These bony growths can be as long as 1.5 inches. However, they may not be visible to the human eye and may be painless, making detection difficult until the condition becomes severe.
Dorsal Heel Spurs
The average length of a dorsal heel spur is statistically longer than one on the bottom of the heel (i.e., plantar). Additionally, heel spurs on the back of the heel are often associated with Achilles tendinopathy, an overuse injury.
Plantar Heel Spurs
While this type of heel spur tends to be shorter than a dorsal growth, its location on the bottom of the foot leaves it prone to agitation during weight-bearing activities, resulting in more patients reporting pain, which may be severe.
Plantar heel spurs are also often associated with Plantar fasciitis.
Long-term ligament and muscle strain is the direct cause of heel spurs. Over time, the persisting strain stresses the heel bone, encouraging heel spur growth. The condition is not a sudden injury; its progression develops over an extended period.
Recurring stress from jumping, running, and walking are common instigators of the preceding ligament and muscle strain.
Other potential causes of heel spurs include:
- Abnormal Walking Gait
- A Bruised Heel Bone
- Excess Body Weight
- Foot Arthritis
- Ill-Fitting Shoes
- Wearing Flip-Flops Frequently
- Worn-Out Shoes
Heel spurs are often asymptomatic for individuals who only discover the condition via X-rays or other tests for other foot issues. However, some people may experience severe and even debilitating pain from heel spurs.
A painful heel spur develops when it grows at an angle that allows it to be particularly agitated from weight-bearing activities. Most cases of painful heel spurs occur in the middle-aged adult population.
Other potential symptoms include:
- Swelling (at the front of the heel)
- The Heel Feels Warm to the Touch
Symptoms may also spread to the arch of the foot, and, given time, a small bony protrusion may become visible.
Heel Spur Treatment
Many heel spur treatment protocols are a combination of lifestyle changes and rest. Discuss treatment options with a trusted podiatrist, such as:
- Anti-Inflammatory Injections or Medications – ask the podiatrist about corticosteroid shots for severe pain and inflammation in the heel and arch of your foot.
- Cold Compresses or Ice Packs – apply for 15-20 minutes two to three times a day to reduce swelling and for pain relief.
- OTC Pain Medications – consider taking over-the-counter medications (acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen) to soothe acute pain.
- Physical Therapy and Stretching – prevent chronic pain by learning and practicing exercises and stretches that supplement anti-inflammatory medication benefits.
- Orthotics, Insoles, and Inserts – enhance your shoes with additional cushioning and support to relieve pain and improve possible mobility issues agitating the heel spur(s). Consult with your podiatrist on custom vs. store-bought orthotics.
- Heel Spur Surgery – surgically remove the growth to resolve severe pain and boost overall foot mobility. Expect a recovery period of up to three months with proper rest and icing, supportive gear (cast, walking boot, etc.), and crutches or a cane (if necessary).
Live Pain-Free with Quality Foot and Ankle Care
The Foot & Ankle Center podiatrists are equipped with the skills and resources to help reduce and prevent foot and ankle pain in your life. We offer treatment options across an extensive list of conditions. Between attentive medical professionals, advanced technology, and healing methods ranging from conservative to intensive, receive the high-quality care you deserve.
To schedule a visit with one of our skilled medical professionals, please submit our online form at https://www.facstl.com/request-appointment/.
You may also reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at (314) 487-9300.