A heel spur is a calcium deposit on the underside of the heel bone, often caused by strain on foot muscles and ligaments. Heel spurs are common among athletes but also tend to develop as we age, as
flexibility decreases. Heel spurs can be painful when associated with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to
the ball of the foot.
If left untreated, the mild aches associated with this condition can evolve into chronic pain. And as you try to compensate for the pain, your gait may change, which could impact your knee, hip and
Diseases such as arthritis may lead to chronic inflammation in the tissue surrounding the heel and over time this can lead to the accumulation of calcium deposits. Ankylosing spondylitis, for
example, is one particular form of arthritis that frequently develops along with heel spurs. This condition can damage bones all over the body and even lead to the fusion of spinal vertebrae.
Pain and discomfort associated with heel spurs does not occur from the spur itself. The bone growth itself has no feeling. However, as you move, this growth digs into sensitive nerves and tissue
along the heel of the foot, resulting in severe pain. Pain can also be generated when pushing off with the toes while walking. Swelling along the heel is also common.
Diagnosis is made using a few different technologies. X-rays are often used first to ensure there is no fracture or tumor in the region. Then ultrasound is used to check the fascia itself to make
sure there is no tear and check the level of scar tissue and damage. Neurosensory testing, a non-painful nerve test, can be used to make sure there is not a local nerve problem if the pain is thought
to be nerve related. It is important to remember that one can have a very large heel spur and no plantar fasciitis issues or pain at all, or one can have a great deal of pain and virtually no spur at
Non Surgical Treatment
There are many temporary solutions to resolve the pain associated with irritation to the plantar ligaments. Common recommendations are ice and anti-inflammatory medications or even cortisone
injections, however none of these solve the fundamental problem. To permanently resolve heel spurs you need to support and restrict the movement of the plantar ligaments. Flexible shoes will
aggravate and often contribute to heel spurs. We recommend a RIGID orthotic that extends from the metatarsal heads to the heel to resolve heel spurs.
When chronic heel pain fails to respond to conservative treatment, surgical treatment may be necessary. Heel surgery can provide relief of pain and restore mobility. The type of procedure used is
based on examination and usually consists of releasing the excessive tightness of the plantar fascia, called a plantar fascia release. Depending on the presence of excess bony build up, the procedure
may or may not include removal of heel spurs. Similar to other surgical interventions, there are various modifications and surgical enhancements regarding surgery of the heel.
There are heel spur prevention methods available in order to prevent the formation of a heel spur. First, proper footwear is imperative. Old shoes or those that do not fit properly fail to absorb
pressure and provide the necessary support. Shoes should provide ample cushioning through the heel and the ball of the foot, while also supporting the arch. Wearing an orthotic shoe insert is one of
the best ways to stretch the plantar fascia and prevent conditions such as heel spurs. Stretching the foot and calf is also helpful in preventing damage. Athletes in particular should make sure to
stretch prior to any physical activity. Stretching helps prevent heel spurs by making tissue stronger as well as more flexible. In addition, easing into a new or increasingly difficult routine should
be done to help avoid strain on the heel and surrounding tissue.