29th May 2023
What Is a Heel Spur?: Overview, Causes, Prevention, and TreatmentsDr. Jill Barat, PharmD
What is a heel spur?
A heel spur occurs when there is a small bony outgrowth pointing out from your heel.
This outgrowth builds up from calcium deposits on the heel bone.
Most of the time, heel spurs will be found underneath the heel pointing forward from the heel, as in growing towards your toes.:
Occasionally, heel spurs can be pointing back from the heel.
When a heel spur is pointing out from the back of the heel it may be associated with tendonitis, or the inflammation of the Achilles tendon.
Heel spurs may be entirely painless, and only be discovered when performing an x-ray on the foot for other reasons, or they can be moderately painful leading people to seek out treatment early on.
The most common symptoms people experience when they have a bone spur include:
- A sharp pain in the heel when first standing
- A dull pain in the heel throughout the rest of the day
- Swelling and inflammation around the heel
- Heat radiating from the heel area
- Feeling or seeing a small protrusion out of the heel
- Tenderness around the heel which makes it uncomfortable to walk barefoot
Heel spur causes
Heel spurs occur over time when there is excessive strain and pressure put on the muscles and ligaments which are attached to the heel bone.
Heel spurs won’t pop up after just one particularly straining day, but tend to develop gradually over time, especially if someone ignores pain in their heel and continues rigorous activity.
Causes of heel spurs can include:
- Walking, running, or jumping on hard surfaces
- Wearing shoes that do not fit properly
- Wearing flimsy shoes with inadequate support such as flip-flops
- Wearing very worn-out shoes long term
- Arthritis in the foot
- Having excess body weight
- Walking or gait issues
How to prevent heel spurs
Once a heel spur starts forming, you may be able to start feeling a pain in your heel signaling that you should make some adjustments.
To help prevent and curb the further development of heel spurs you can rest your feet for a time period when they become painful, switch to more supportive and cushioned shoes, make sure you are not walking or exercising on excessively hard surfaces, lose excess body weight, and make sure that you are stretching and warming up before physical activities.
You should also take a step back if you start feeling a pain in your heel, and be sure not to push through heel pain during exercise as you may worsen the condition or prolong your healing time.
Heel spur treatments
Resting the painful heel and giving the area some time to heal is the most commonly recommended course of treatment.
This resting period can be paired with other pain-relieving measures such as pain-relieving creams, compresses, or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.
Your doctor may also recommend a prescription anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving cream if over-the-counter options are not helping enough.
Certain foot and heel stretches may help relieve the pain felt with heel spurs.
These stretches need to be done carefully and gently to make sure more damage is not done to the area.
Icing the area or applying a cold compress may help reduce pain and inflammation in the foot.
When you do have to put pressure on the foot with a heel spur, you can reduce the pain and prevent extending the healing time by having cushioned and supportive shoe inserts.
If the pain is extreme, your doctor may recommend you have a steroid injection into the area to help relieve pain and inflammation temporarily.
These injections are often left for very painful cases, and should not be used on a regular basis.
In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend you have a minor foot surgery to physically remove the bone spur.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.