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Hand holding foot affected by a heel spur

Hand holding foot affected by a heel spur
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Heel spur

2-minute read

If you feel pain in your heel when you get out of bed in the morning and take your first few steps for the day, you could have a heel spur. Find out more about the causes and symptoms of heel spurs and what you can do about them.

What is a heel spur?

A heel spur is a bony growth under the heel bone, visible on X-ray only.

What causes a heel spur?

Heel spurs form when calcium builds up on the underside of the heel bone. This can happen due to strain on the muscles and ligaments or stretching of the plantar fascia. Things that put you at risk of heel spurs include:

  • problems with how the feet function (biomechanics)
  • running on hard surfaces
  • unsupportive footwear
  • being overweight or obese

Heel spur symptoms

Heel spurs cause intermittent or chronic pain when inflammation builds up where the spur connects to the soft tissues of your foot. You may feel pain when walking or running, especially on hard surfaces.

Heel pain is usually caused by injury and inflammation to soft tissues, for example plantar fasciitis, and not by the heel spur itself.

You may feel a sharp pain when pressure is applied in the area, such as when you stand up or when getting out of bed in the morning. After a while, the pain may become a dull ache.

Heel spur diagnosis

A heel spur can be diagnosed using an X-ray.

Heel spur treatment

Treatment for heel spurs may incorporate a range of options:

  • footwear needs to fit, provide adequate support for the types of activity you do, and not cause you any pain
  • strapping/taping to support the foot, taking the strain away from the foot muscles and plantar fascia, which allows the area to heal
  • stretching exercises for the plantar fascia and calf muscles
  • orthotics for your shoes that support, align and improve how your foot functions
  • medication such as anti-inflammatories to reduce pain and inflammation in the area
  • surgery is only considered after all other treatments fail. Surgery may involve removing the spur from the bone, though it can also involve releasing the plantar fascia

It usually takes about 6 to 8 weeks to recover from a heel spur, when the area is strapped and rested.

Heel spur prevention

To prevent heel spurs, wear appropriate footwear, manage your weight, avoid exercising on hard surfaces and keep feet and leg muscles and joints flexible. Warm up and stretch properly before you exercise.

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Last reviewed: April 2018

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