How to Tell If You Have Heel Spurs

February 16, 2023
How to Tell If You Have Heel Spurs

A heel spur is a bony outgrowth on the underside of the foot that can potentially cause discomfort or pain. Sometimes, a heel spur can remain undetected until the foot is x-rayed for an unrelated reason. 

What is a heel spur and how can you tell if you have one? We’ll take a closer look at the signs that indicate a heel spur, and what to do if you have one. If you’re worried you may have heel spurs, they’re thankfully easy to notice and even easier to treat.

What Causes Heel Spurs?

Heel spurs are caused by a deposit of calcium between the arch of the foot and the ankle. Long-term muscle and ligament strain wear out the soft tissues in the heel over time, making room for spurs to grow. If the membrane covering the heel bone tears, this also makes an opportunity for spur growth. They can happen independently or as part of another condition.

Several factors can lead to an increased risk of bone spur development. Extended athletic activities like running and jumping, especially on hard surfaces, can lead to heel spur development. Similarly, bruises or tears to the heel or the membrane covering it can lead to a heel spur’s creation. These become more probable as a person gets older, and tend to be more common among women than men.

Other lifestyle factors, like obesity or wearing improper footwear (whether lacking support or poorly fitting,) can increase this risk also. Certain pre-existing medical conditions can further increase the probability of heel spur development. These include reactive arthritis (Reiter’s disease,) ankylosing spondylitis, diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis, and plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms of Heel Spurs

Symptoms of heel spurs will focus on the affected heel. These can include a sharp pain when standing up in the morning or a dull ache throughout the day. Inflammation and swelling can occur, as well as heat radiating from the affected area. The tenderness at the bottom of the heel can make it hard to walk barefoot. In severe cases, a small visible bone-like protrusion may appear under the heel.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like these, a doctor may recommend an X-ray to confirm the spur’s existence. Not everyone with a heel spur will experience symptoms like this, however.

Heel Spur Treatment

For those seeking relief, there are thankfully several methods of heel spur treatment.

Resting and taking pressure off the affected foot will reduce pain and swelling overall, as will applying ice. Custom-made orthotics may be required to take pressure off the heel. This pressure can also be reduced by wearing cushioned sports shoes. 

Your doctor may prescribe or recommend an anti-inflammatory medication (or cortisone injections in severe cases) to reduce swelling. If the spur was caused by inflammatory arthritis, treating the underlying condition may improve symptoms as well.

Usually, the above methods are effective, but in rare cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the heel spur. Medical professionals have made great strides in using acoustic wave or shockwave therapy as a treatment for heel spurs. This treatment uses sound waves to disintegrate the heel spur without damaging surrounding bones or tissues. This is less invasive than traditional surgery and more cost-effective (although not covered by all insurers).

Get Help With Your Heel Spurs from Diablo Foot and Ankle

Now that you know the signs, you’ll know if you have a heel spur and can rest assured that treatment options are available. Don’t live with the pain and discomfort of heel spurs any longer than you need to. Schedule a foot consultation with one of Diablo Foot and Ankle’s board-certified podiatrists to treat your heel spurs. Let Diablo Foot and Ankle help you kick your heel spurs to the curb as soon as possible.

Common Podiatry Questions

What is a Podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle.

What does a Podiatrist treat?

A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the medical and surgical care of the feet. They can treat conditions such as ingrown toenails, fungal toenails, bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis.

What’s the difference between a Podiatrist and Orthopedist?

A Podiatrist and Orthopedist are very similar to each other in many ways. They use most of the same tools and treat a lot of the same conditions. The main difference between the two is their medical training. Podiatrists are trained exclusively on the foot and ankle, whereas the Orthopedic is trained on the whole body with an additional year of training on the foot and ankle.

Where are your Podiatry clinics located?

At Diablo Foot & Ankle, we treat our foot and ankle patients in two main clinic locations in Walnut Creek and in Antioch California. Dr. Eman Elmi and Dr. Shayan Esspoor are Board Certified Podiatrists who specialize in the treatment of foot and ankle disorders.

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