Heel spurs, also known as bone spurs of the heel, are deposits of hard calcium that build up on the underside of your heel bone. If you’ve had a spur for a long time, it may protrude a half inch or more forward from the heel bone!
Although heel spurs may cause pain in some circumstances, there are a lot of misconceptions about them. They are frequently associated with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of soft tissue near the heel side of the arch, and that often leads to confusion between the two.
What Causes Heel Spurs?
People often wonder if their heel spurs are the cause of their plantar fasciitis. However, this is exactly backwards! It’s actually untreated plantar fasciitis that creates the bone spur.
Stretching and tearing in the plantar fascia, as well as the membrane which covers the heal bone, creates a separation between the bone and the soft tissues surrounding it. This separation is what allows calcium deposits to build up on the surface of the bone.
Because bone spurs are usually a secondary complication of plantar fasciitis, they share a common set of underlying causes and risk factors, including:
- Frequent athletic activities involving running and jumping
- Occupations and hobbies that require you to be on your feet
- Poor fitting or inappropriate footwear
- Flaws in your foot structure or natural walking gait
Are Heel Spurs the Cause of My Heel Pain?
Although heel spurs can cause pain on their own if they are especially large or awkwardly positions, usually they are painless.
If you continue to have heel pain, it’s probably the plantar fasciitis causing the issue. The presence of a heel spur generally will not cause plantar fasciitis, make it worse, or prevent it from healing. Once the plantar fasciitis is successfully treated, the pain usually goes away.
In fact, it’s not that uncommon for people to discover they’ve been living with heel spurs for years with no symptoms, after they show up on X-rays for an unrelated condition!
Do Heel Spurs Need Treatment?
If the spur itself is not causing you pain, there is no real need to treat or remove it.
However, if you are experiencing heel pain due to your plantar fasciitis, that should be treated. Most cases can be resolved non-invasively. Treatment options might include:
- Stretching exercises
- Better shoes
- Arch supports
- Custom orthotics
- Taping or strapping
- Night splints that elongate the plantar fascia and calves
- Activity adjustments
- Temporary rest
- Over-the-counter medications
- Injection therapy
If your heel pain goes away after trying these methods (which are effective in well over 9 out of 10 cases), there really is no need for further intervention.
In the rare cases where pain continues beyond this point, surgery may be necessary to release the plantar fascia and/or remove the bone spur.
We hope that clears up some of the confusion!