Are Heel Spurs the Problem?

Recently, we had a patient come in to see us that was complaining that her heels were hurting her.  She said that even in some sneakers, she had pain.  She wasn’t sure what the problem was… however, she had noticed that her heel appeared to have a bumpy protrusion on it.  What she was experiencing is something we know as “heel spurs”.  Heel spurs are calcium deposits that cause a bony protrusion on the underside of the heel bone.  If you look at it on an x-ray, you can see that the heel spur can extend forward by as much a half-inch!  Sometimes, heel spurs are painless, but other times they can cause heel pain.  They can definitely add to some discomfort when walking, and wearing many types of shoes.

Occasionally a heel spur doesn’t show up on an x-ray, and this condition is known as “heel spur syndrome”.  Heel spurs are frequently associated with plantar fasciitis, which is a painful inflammation of the plantar fascia (the fibrous band of connective tissue) that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the ball of the foot.  They are often caused by strains on the foot muscles and ligaments, stretching of the plantar fascia, and repeated tearing of the membrane that covers the heel bone.  For this reason, heel spurs are very common among athletes whose activities include large amounts of jumping and running.  If you are doing the following things, you are more at risk for heel spurs occurring…

  • If your walking gait tends to have you placing excessive stress on the heel bone, ligaments, and nerves near the heel.
  • If you wear poorly fitted or very worn out shoes, especially ones lacking appropriate arch support.
  • If you are carrying a lot of extra weight… obese people are more prone to heel spurs than people of average weight.
  • If you run and jog a lot, especially on hard surfaces.

The treatments associated with heel spurs and associated conditions include:

  • Exercise
  • Custom-made orthotics
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Cortisone injections
  • Surgery, if all other treatments fail

If you are having any problems with heel pain, and you suspect heel spurs, help is only a phone call away.  Call Dr. Scott McKinney, he and his team of board certified podiatrists have 8 convenient locations in the Houston Area for patients to visit.