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
One frequent cause of injury to the plantar fascia is pronation. Pronation is defined as the inward and downward action of the foot that occurs while walking, so that the foot's arch flattens toward
the ground (fallen arch). A condition known as excessive pronation creates a mechanical problem in the foot, and the portion of the plantar fascia attached to the heel bone can stretch and pull away
from the bone. This damage can occur especially while walking and during athletic activities.
Symptoms may be similar to those of plantar fasciitis and include pain and tenderness at the base of the heel, pain on weight bearing and in severe cases difficulty walking. The main diagnosis of a
heel spur is made by X-ray where a bony growth on the heel can be seen. A heel spur can occur without any symptoms at all and the athlete would never know they have the bony growth on the heel.
Likewise, Plantar fasciitis can occur without the bone growth present.
Your doctor will discuss your medical history and will examine your foot and heel for any deformities and inflammation (swelling, redness, heat, pain). He/she will analyze your flexibility,
stability, and gait (the way you walk). Occasionally an x-ray or blood tests (to rule out diseases or infections) may be requested.
Non Surgical Treatment
In some cases, heel spur pain may not be resolved through conservative treatment options. In those cases, cortisone injections may be used to reduce inflammation associated with the condition,
helping to reduce discomfort. However, treatment options such as these must be discussed in detail with your physician, since more serious forms of treatment could yield negative side effects, such
as atrophy of the heel's fat pad, or the rupture of the plantar fascia ligament. Although such side effects are rare, they are potential problems that could deliver added heel pain.
Surgery is used a very small percentage of the time. It is usually considered after trying non-surgical treatments for at least a year. Plantar fascia release surgery is use to relax the plantar
fascia. This surgery is commonly paired with tarsal tunnel release surgery. Surgery is successful for the majority of people.