09 Jan What are Heel Spurs?
Do You Have Heel Spurs?
In the past year, several high-profile athletes have chosen surgery to fix their painful, recurrent heel spurs. They include:
- John Wall of the Washington Wizards.
- Troy Toluwitzky of the Toronto Blue Jays.
- Rudy Gay of the San Antonio Spurs.
Reading about these season-ending surgeries, you may have wondered what heel spurs are. They are a common injury that afflicts many people, not just athletes. Read on to learn more.
What are Heel Spurs?
A heel spur is a piece of hard bone that grows out from under the calcaneus or heel bone. The spur is actually a buildup of calcium on the heel.
Heel spurs are caused when the plantar fascia becomes weak and stretched out. In response, the heel builds excess calcium as a way to strengthen and protect the foot.
The name comes from the shape and location of this outgrowth. If you could see through skin to the heel bone, you would see a small, pointed piece of bone jutting out from it. This small bone has a sharp edge and a triangular shape. It’s what gives heel spurs their name.
Heel spurs are a common cause of foot and heel pain. They can afflict anyone, not just professional athletes.
What Causes Heel Spurs?
- Spending a lot of time on your feet.
- Being overweight.
- Sports or other activities that require jumping and sudden abrupt movements.
- Trauma to the heel.
- Inflammatory diseases including arthritis.
- Frequent, intense exercising without warming up.
- Footwear with inadequate arch support.
What are the Symptoms of Heel Spurs?
The symptoms of heel spurs are similar to those of plantar fasciitis. Both of these are related to a weak, overstretched plantar fascia.
Plantar fasciitis and heel spurs can occur at the same time, especially in people with osteoarthritis or other inflammatory diseases. It’s important to note the specific symptoms of heel spurs, which include the following:
- Pain when pushing on the ball of the foot.
- A sensation of a knife or pin poking into the heels.
- Swollen Achilles tendon.
- Heel pain that increases as the day goes on.
Diagnosing and Treating Heel Spurs
Many heel and foot conditions have similar symptoms. If you suspect that you have heel spurs, you should visit a podiatrist to get the correct diagnosis.
The treatment for heel spurs usually includes the following.
Physical therapy: Exercises that strengthen the plantar fascia can reduce the severity of heel spurs and prevent them in the future.
Custom Orthotics: Orthotics can help in two specific ways. They cushion the heel against the pressure and pain of the heel spurs. They also provide arch support to ease the pain of a weakened plantar fascia.
Supportive shoes: It’s important to wear shoes that fit well and offer firm support to your heels and arches. Ask your podiatrist for a recommendation.
How to Prevent Heel Spurs
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Always wear supportive, cushioning shoes.
- If you’re engaged in intense athletics, wear custom orthotics.
- Warm up before every physical activity.
Heal Your Heel Spurs
At Shuman Podiatry & Sports Medicine, we see heel problems of all kinds. If you’re troubled by intense pain in your heels, call our office today.