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California Foot & Ankle Institute

Do Not Horse Around with a Heel Spur

If your “giddy up” has gotten up and left as a result of heel pain, it’s time you take the reins and get control of the problem. You could be suffering from a heel spur, a condition frequently associated with plantar fasciitis, one of the most common causes of painful heels. Before you can treat it though, you need to round up some information about it.


Though it sounds like something out of a Western movie, a spur on your heel has nothing to do with a cowboy boot, although that could aggravate the problem! The condition actually involves a calcium deposit beneath the heel bone (calcaneus). This can develop into a hook that protrudes. Although the hook of bone itself may not be painful, its development is often associated with soft tissue injuries like plantar fasciitis, which does cause pain.

Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the band of tissues, called plantar fascia, that form the arch of your foot. These tissues span from your toes to your heel and, when under stress, can irritate the calcaneus. This is believed to be one reason why these spurs develop.

Stampede of Symptoms

You may have heel spurs and not experience any symptoms. However, because of underlying conditions, you can suffer from pain and discomfort, especially during activities such as running. The pain is often at its worse in the morning when your feet first hit the floor. That’s because the plantar fascia tend to tighten at rest, and that initial stretch when you hop out of bed pulls on the heel and can feel like a knife in your boot. Once you walk around, the area will loosen up and pain will subside, but don’t be fooled—it will return.

Corralling Risk Factors

This condition is mostly seen in athletes whose sports entail a lot of running and jumping on hard surfaces, or who participate in short bursts of activity. Other factors that put you at risk include excess weight, non-supportive or worn out shoes, and gait abnormalities that place excessive stress on your heel. Spending extended periods of time on your feet can also make you more susceptible, as can having high or no arches. In addition, age can wear down the protective fat pad on your heel, leaving it vulnerable to irritation.

Whoa Big Fella

Rest is the number one recommendation for treating a heel spur. Avoid any activities that aggravate the problem and try to stay off of your feet as much as possible. Icing the area and taking anti- inflammatory medication will help with pain and swelling. Shoe inserts are a great option as well, since they redistribute weight and provide added comfort and support. Other possible treatments include cortisone injections and extracorporeal shock wave therapy, which uses energy pulses to stimulate healing. In rare cases, surgical removal of the spur and the release of the plantar fascia may need to be performed in order to provide chronic pain relief.

Lasso Some Prevention Tips

First and foremost, let’s talk shoes. Proper fitting footwear is the best way to prevent future problems. Besides a good fit, make sure to look for shock absorbent soles, supportive heel counters, and rigid shanks. Also, shoes should be appropriate for the activity in which you are participating. A good warm up, a closely monitored pace, and continued stretching are all recommended as well.

Ride off into the sunset

If heel pain has sent you off to pasture, contact the doctors at California Foot & Ankle Institute today. We can help you say “goodbye” to the pain associated with a heel spur, and “howdy” to happier days ahead. You can reach us toll free at (888) 796-6631, in Victorville at (760) 951-2000 or in Irvine, CA, at (949) 833-3406.