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
The plantar fascia is a big strong ligament on the bottom of the foot, starting at the bottom of the heel bone and running into the ball of the foot. As the arch of the foot becomes weak, it sags
slightly with each step and this causes the plantar fascia to tug and pull at the heel bone with each step. Over a period of time, a spur forms where this big strong ligament tugs and pulls at the
heel bone. Soon, inflammation (swelling) starts around this spur and the pain becomes almost unbearable. (Sometimes heel spurs may be present without being painful if no inflammation is
Heel spur and plantar fasciitis pain usually begins in the bottom of the heel, and frequently radiates into the arch. At times, however, the pain may be felt only in the arch. The pain is most
intense when first standing, after any period of rest. Most people with this problem experience their greatest pain in the morning, with the first few steps after sleeping. After several minutes of
walking, the pain usually becomes less intense and may disappear completely, only to return later with prolonged walking or standing. If a nerve is irritated due to the swollen plantar fascia, this
pain may radiate into the ankle. In the early stages of Heel Spurs and Plantar Fasciitis, the pain will usually subside quickly with getting off of the foot and resting. As the disease progresses, it
may take longer periods of time for the pain to subside.
Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed by your physiotherapist or sports doctor based on your symptoms, history and clinical examination. After confirming your heel spur or plantar
fasciitis they will investigate WHY you are likely to be predisposed to heel spurs and develop a treatment plan to decrease your chance of future bouts. X-rays will show calcification or bone within
the plantar fascia or at its insertion into the calcaneus. This is known as a calcaneal or heel spur. Ultrasound scans and MRI are used to identify any plantar fasciitis tears, inflammation or
calcification. Pathology tests may identify spondyloarthritis, which can cause symptoms similar to plantar fasciitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
The key for the proper treatment of heel spurs is determining what is causing the excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. When the cause is over-pronation (flat feet), an orthotic with rearfoot
posting and longitudinal arch support is an effective device to reduce the over-pronation, and allow the condition to heal. Other common treatments include stretching exercises, losing weight,
wearing shoes that have a cushioned heel that absorbs shock, and elevating the heel with the use of a heel cradle, heel cup, or orthotic. Heel cradles and heel cups provide extra comfort and cushion
to the heel, and reduce the amount of shock and shear forces experienced from everyday activities.
Surgery, which is a more radical treatment, can be a permanent correction to remove the spur itself. If your doctor believes that surgery is indicated, he will recommend an operation - but only after
establishing that less drastic methods of treatment are not successful.