Understanding Heel Spurs: Treatment and Prevention Tips

When your feet are in good shape, you stride forward without really thinking about it. You can walk, run or jump as much as you like, enjoying an active life with your family and friends.

It’s a different story when your heel hurts, though. Heel pain can make you count every step carefully, slowing you down and limiting your activities.

So, what’s causing that heel pain? Perhaps it’s a heel spur.

What is a heel spur?

A heel spur is a bony growth poking out from below your heel bone inside your foot, specifically at the point where your heel bone connects to the plantar fascia, the ligament that runs between your heel and the ball of your foot.

Diagnosis usually involves X-raying your foot as the bony overgrowth under your heel will be clear on imaging.

Heel spur symptoms

A heel spur may cause symptoms such as:

  • Heel pain – though many other conditions can cause this too
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling at the front of your heel.

Your heel may also feel warm to the touch.

That said, heel spurs don’t always cause symptoms and are sometimes detected incidentally when you’re having tests or X-rays for other foot issues.

Is a heel spur the same as plantar fasciitis?

No, though both can cause heel pain, and many people have both conditions at once.

A heel spur is a calcium deposit (bony overgrowth) on your heel bone.

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, the thick ligament that runs from your heel to your toes. It can happen if you’ve overstrained your foot, for example, through activities like running or by being overweight.

What causes heel spurs?

Heel spurs can result from long-term strain, which gradually wears out the soft tissues in the heel.

You’re at higher risk of developing a heel spur if you:

  • Have bruised or injured your heel
  • Often walk, run or jump, especially on hard surfaces
  • Are older, female or overweight
  • Wear ill-fitting, unsupportive shoes
  • Have underlying medical conditions like arthritis or plantar fasciitis.

What about foot biomechanics?

The biomechanics of your foot can strongly influence the development of heel spurs and plantar fasciitis. If your foot’s arch tends to collapse when you walk, it means your soft tissues must stretch more than they usually would. That increases tension around your heel, contributing to pain.

How to get rid of heel spurs

In treating heel spurs, we often follow the same approach as for plantar fasciitis. That may involve:

  • Resting your heel
  • Strapping your foot to offload it
  • Cushioning your heel
  • Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication
  • Wearing custom-made orthotics to improve your biomechanics and relieve strain on your foot
  • Lifestyle changes such as weight loss
  • Night splints
  • Physiotherapy
  • Steroid injections
  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy
  • Surgery to relieve plantar fasciitis and, indirectly, ease heel spurs.

How to prevent a heel spur

Preventing a heel spur (or preventing it from worsening) may involve:

  • Wearing your orthotics
  • Running on soft grass rather than hard concrete if you can
  • Never going barefoot on hard floors
  • Not being on your feet as much
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.

How can we help?

At Hong Kong Foot Clinic, we’re here to help you get back on your feet by providing high-quality care for heel spurs and plantar fasciitis.

We offer general and sports podiatry and can prescribe and make customised orthotics to improve your foot biomechanics and relieve your pain.

Please book an appointment today.

All information is general and not intended as a substitute for professional advice.