Heel spurs, which are bony growths on the heel, are a common foot condition experienced by many athletes. Heel spurs develop over time, and as they progress, you may notice redness and feel swelling or pain. You may also notice bony growths under the skin.
However, many people don’t see or feel them at all, and they’re often only discovered with an X-ray. The providers at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine offer this guide to help you understand more about heel spurs.
What are heel spurs?
Heel spurs are bony growths on the heel of the foot. They’re technically calcium deposits rather than actual bone. They can be up to a half-inch long, and they start at the heel bone and extend toward the arch of the foot.
Heel spurs are often caused by overuse, making them appear more often in runners and other athletes. Although heel spurs are often caused by repetitive stress, they can also be caused by the following factors:
- Being older
- Excess body weight or obesity
- Wearing shoes that don’t fit well or have poor arch support
- Having other foot problems, such as flat feet or high arches
- Problems with walking gait
Is it heel spurs or plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a common foot problem that has sidelined many runners, and many people confuse heel spurs with plantar fasciitis. Furthermore, if you have plantar fasciitis, you may also develop heel spurs, because both are often caused by repetitive strain.
In plantar fasciitis, the tissue and ligaments that connect your heel to your toes becomes tight and inflamed. The telltale symptom of plantar fasciitis is intense pain in your heels, which is usually at its worst when you wake up in the morning.
Many people link heel pain with heel spurs, but plantar fasciitis is most often the culprit, because heel spurs are far less common and less likely to cause pain.
How are heel spurs treated?
Most of the treatments for heel spurs are relatively simple. The first and most important step is to rest and spend time off of your feet. You can also take nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
We also recommend other basic interventions, including the following:
- Taping your tendons to allow them to rest
- Getting custom orthotics for your shoes
- Replacing your shoes as soon as they wear out
- Switching running shoes to a different style or brand
- Wearing night splints
- Stretching the muscles and ligaments in your feet and ankles
More than 90% of heel spurs get better with these treatments. If your heel spurs don’t respond to these more conservative treatments, your specialist at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine may recommend surgery to remove the heel spur.
If you have plantar fasciitis, the treatments are mostly the same as the ones used for heel spurs, although plantar fasciitis can also be treated with steroid injections and by undergoing physical therapy.
If you have heels spurs or want to see if you do call 425-899-3234 or book an appointment online with Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine today.