Heel Spurs

Illustration showing a heel spur.

The plantar fascia is a thick, fibrous layer of tissue that covers the bones on the bottom of your foot. It holds the foot bones in an arched position. Plantar fasciitis is a painful swelling of the plantar fascia.

A heel spur is an overgrowth of bone where the plantar fascia attaches to the heel bone. The heel spur itself usually doesn’t cause pain. However, the heel spur might be a sign of plantar fasciitis which may cause your foot pain.

Plantar fasciitis can develop slowly or suddenly. It usually affects one foot at a time. Heel pain can feel sharp, like a knife sticking into the bottom of your foot. You may feel pain after exercising, long-distance jogging, stair climbing, long periods of standing, or after standing up.

Risk factors for plantar fasciitis include: arthritis, diabetes, obesity or recent weight gain, flat foot, and having high arches. Wearing high heels, loose shoes, or shoes with poor arch support adds to the risk.  

Foot pain is usually worse in the morning. But it improves with walking. By the end of the day there may be a dull aching. Treatment includes short-term rest and controlling inflammation. It may take up to 9 months before all symptoms go away. In rare cases, a steroid injection in the foot, or surgery, may be needed.

Home care

  • If you are overweight, lose weight to help healing.

  • Choose supportive shoes with good arch support and shock absorbency. Replace athletic shoes when they become worn out. Don’t walk or run barefoot.

  • Premade or custom-fitted shoe inserts may be helpful. Inserts made of silicone seem to be the most effective. Custom-made inserts can be provided by a foot specialist, physical therapist, or orthopedist.

  • Premade or custom-made night splints keep the heel stretched out while you sleep. They may prevent morning pain.

  • Don't do activities that stress the feet: jogging, prolonged standing or walking, contact sports, etc.

  • First thing in the morning and before sports, stretch the bottom of your foot. Gently flex your ankle so the toes move toward your knee.

  • Icing may help control heel pain. Apply an ice pack to the heel for 10 to 20 minutes as a preventive. Or ice your heel after a severe flare-up of symptoms. You may repeat this every 1 to 2 hours as needed.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. Anti-inflammatory pain medicines, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may work better than acetaminophen. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

  • Shoe inserts, a night splint, or a special boot may be needed. Use these as directed by your healthcare provider.

Follow-up care 

Follow up with your healthcare provider, physical therapist, or foot specialist as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • The pain worsens.

  • There is no relief after a few weeks of home treatment.

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