A heel spur is a bony projection on the sole (bottom) of the heel bone. This condition may accompany or result from severe cases of inflammation to the structure called plantar fascia. The plantar
fascia is a fibrous band of connective tissue on the sole of the foot, extending from the heel to the toes. Heel spurs are a common foot problem resulting from excess bone growth on the heel bone.
The bone growth is usually located on the underside of the heel bone, and may extend forward toward the toes. A painful tear in the plantar fascia between the toes and heel can produce a heel spur
and/or inflammation of the plantar fascia. Because this condition is often correlated to a decrease in the arch of the foot, it is more prevalent after the ages of six to eight years, when the arch
is fully developed.
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 spurs often cause no symptoms. But heel spurs can be associated with intermittent or chronic pain, especially while walking, jogging, or running, if inflammation develops at the point of the
spur formation. In general, the cause of the pain is not the heel spur itself but the soft-tissue injury associated with it. Many people describe the pain of heel spurs and plantar fasciitis as a
knife or pin sticking into the bottom of their feet when they first stand up in the morning, a pain that later turns into a dull ache. They often complain that the sharp pain returns after they stand
up after sitting for a prolonged period of time.
Your doctor will review your medical history and examine your foot. X-rays are used to identify the location and size of the heel spur.
Non Surgical Treatment
Heel spurs are considered a self-limited condition, which means that by making small alterations in your lifestyle and regular routines you can often control the condition. The goal is to relieve
pain, reduce friction and transfer pressure from your sensitive foot areas. By eliminating the cause of the heel spur and plantar fasciitis (i.e. better shoes, orthotics to fix your gait, losing
weight) will help reduce the pressure put on your fascia and heel and can reduce the inflammation caused by your heel spur. Failure to see improvements after conservative treatments may make surgery
your only option.
Approximately 2% of people with painful heel spurs need surgery, meaning that 98 out of 100 people do well with the non-surgical treatments previously described. However, these treatments can
sometimes be rather long and drawn out, and may become considerably expensive. Surgery should be considered when conservative treatment is unable to control and prevent the pain. If the pain goes
away for a while, and continues to come back off and on, despite conservative treatments, surgery should be considered. If the pain really never goes away, but reaches a plateau, beyond which it does
not improve despite conservative treatments, surgery should be considered. If the pain requires three or more injections of "cortisone" into the heel within a twelve month period, surgery should be