Heel Spur Treatment – Pain Relief For Heel Spurs

As with any medical condition, heel spurs are uncomfortable because they often cause pain and may cause difficulties walking. Plus, it’s just annoying to have a bony outgrowth on your heel bone.

If you find yourself in this position, you likely want to treat your heel spurs as soon as possible, especially if you’re dealing with pain. This article is for you. We’ll cover what heel spurs are, what causes them, and ways to treat the pain.

What are Heel Spurs?

In short, heel spurs are a bony growth—officially called an osteophyte—off the edge of a bone. Typically, bone spurs form where two or more bones meet and can occur in many other areas of the body beyond just the heel.

Heel spurs can form at the back or the bottom of the heel. A heel spur can extend forward ½ an inch as seen on an X-ray. Although heel spurs are not always connected to plantar fasciitis, the two sometimes go hand-in-hand.

Someone with heel spurs may or may not experience pain. While 10% of people deal with heel spurs—probably a higher number for runners and athletes—not everyone who has heel spurs deals with pain.

In fact, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons notes that only 5% of people with heel spurs deal with any heel pain at all from heel spurs.

What Causes Heel Spurs?

Unfortunately, if you’re a runner or an athlete, heel spurs are more common for you if you do a lot of running or jumping. Heel spurs occur from calcium deposits building up on your heel bone, which can take months to develop.

Other causes include strains on foot muscles and ligaments, including the Achilles tendon, stretching of the plantar fascia (although heel spurs and plantar fasciitis do not have to go together), and repeated tearing of the membrane surrounding the heel bone.

You are more at risk for heel spurs if you have an unusual gait that places more stress on your heel and heel bone, you run a lot on hard surfaces like asphalt and concrete, you are overweight, or you wear ill-fitted shoes that don’t give you the support you need.

Although you may or may not get heel spurs due to plantar fasciitis, you are at a higher risk for the latter if you have diabetes, spend most of your day standing up, have low or high arches, or are getting older.

How Do I Know If I Have Heel Spurs?

The reality is that you may or may not know if you have heel spurs because there isn’t always pain associated with them. However, you may deal with pain, especially during physical activity such as jogging, running, and walking.

If you do experience pain from heel spurs, it may feel like a knife sticking into the bottom of your feet from the minute you wake up and turning into a dull ache as the day goes on. In other words, you’ll start with a sharp pain and move into a dull pain.

You may also experience a sharp pain again later in the day if you get up after sitting for a while like working all day or driving in the car for a while. Another time you may experience greater pain is after exercising or some sort of physical activity.

A good way to test to see if you have a heel spur is to touch your heel and see if you feel tenderness or a sharp pain. If it’s uncomfortable to walk every time (even if it decreases as the day goes on), then it’s probably a heel spur.

How Can I Treat Heel Spurs?

The good news is that you probably will be able to treat your heel spurs at home. According to WebMD, over 90 percent of people do not need surgical treatments to deal with their heel spurs.

While you can definitely start with treating heel spur pain at home without seeing a medical professional first, you will want to talk with a doctor if your heel pain hasn’t gotten better in a couple of weeks.

At-Home Treatment

Whenever you start to feel heel pain, you should try some of these conservative treatments to see if they make a difference. Start with whatever is easiest for you and then move onto others as needed.

Rest and Ice

If you haven’t been dealing with heel spurs for long, it might just be that you overexerted yourself for a short period of time and all you need is some rest and icing. Take this excuse to lounge on the couch and watch some Netflix as you’re recuperating.

You can also use cold compression packs if you want a more comfortable feel for your heel and foot. Try this for a couple days, but if the pain hasn’t changed at all, you might want to move onto something else.

Wear Supportive Shoes

Heel spurs can also be due to poorly fitting shoes. So you might need to go shopping to purchase some new shoes to help with heel pain. Look for heel support, a moderate flex in the shoe, and a high-drop heel with cushioning in the heel.

But as we always say here, the shoes that are least likely to cause injury and pain are those that are the most comfortable for you. So, while it’s good to look for supportive shoes, it could be that you need something different.

Use Inserts

It also could be that the shoes aren’t the issue, but you do need some additional support.

You could try inserts, either ones that are donut shaped to cushion around your heel spur or ones that raise your heel to reduce pressure on the Achilles tendon.

We’ve gathered up the best inserts for heel spurs in this article.

Try Anti-Inflammatory Medicine

As always you might be able to fix the problem as simply as taking some anti-inflammatory medicine like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. You can also do this step in conjunction with resting and icing your heel.

Tape Your Foot to Rest Muscles

If you’ve tried resting and icing your heel and haven’t seen too much of a reduction in pain but don’t want to go to the hassle of getting new shoes, you could try kinesiology tape, which can help reduce pain and help you recover more quickly.

Use a Night Splint

If your heel spur pain is connected to plantar fasciitis, you might want to try a night splint because it will slightly stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon at night so that you have less pain when you wake up in the morning.

Do Some Foot and Calf Stretches

You might also want to try some exercises to strengthen your foot and calf muscles. Sometimes you can injure yourself just because a particular part of your body is weak. If you add stretching to your routine, this is a good step in preventing reinjury.

Standing Stretch

Stand facing a wall with your hands pressed against it. Step forward with one leg and make sure that the front knee is bent while the back knee is straight. Push forward until you feel a slight stretch in the back leg. Hold for 15 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

You could try to complete this stretch at least two times a day—once in the morning and once in the evening—for as many reps as you feel comfortable doing.

Towel Stretch

All you need for this exercise is a towel. Simply sit on the floor (or a chair if that’s more comfortable for you) and place the towel folded lengthwise under the arch of one of your feet. Grabbing both ends of the towel—one in each hand—gently pull your foot toward you.

Hold briefly for 15 to 30 seconds and then switch to the other side. Repeat three more times, making sure that you are gently pulling your feet toward you every time. It should be a slight stretch, nothing drastic.

Medical Heel Spur Treatment

If none of these home remedies work, you may be a candidate for medical treatment, which your doctor can tell you for sure. Be sure to let him or her know what you’ve tried at home before coming to see him or her.

Cortisone Injection

If the inflammation isn’t going down, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid to help reduce inflammation and assist in the healing and recovery process. This isn’t a permanent solution, though.

Typically, you can’t get cortisone injections more than once every six weeks and it’s good to limit them to no more than 3-4 times a year. You might deal with side effects like cartilage damage, tendon weakening or rupture, or joint infection.

Fortunately, these side effects tend to increase with larger doses and the more often you get an injection, so getting just one shouldn’t be a big deal. However, be sure to talk with your doctor about any concerns.

Surgery

If all else fails and you’ve tried other treatment options for 9-12 months, you may need to have surgery. Typically, surgery will either remove the heel spur or will release the plantar fascia.

Not everyone is a qualified candidate, so your medical professional will make sure that you do with pre-surgical tests. Some risks include recurrent heel pain (what you’re trying to avoid), permanent numbness, and scarring.

Final Thoughts

In the end, it’s never fun to deal with pain on the bottom of your heel where you walk, so hopefully, you’re able to find a solution to your heel spur pain!

The good news is that you can often do it at home, so it should be no more than finding a new pair of shoes or taking some ibuprofen.

Cleveland Clinic. “Bone Spurs.” Last modified October 9, 2017. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10395-bone-spurs

Kadakia, Anish A. “Plantar Fasciitis and Bone Spurs.” American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Last modified June 2010. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/plantar-fasciitis-and-bone-spurs

Laskowski, Edward R. “Heel Spurs: Do They Always Cause Pain?” Mayo Clinc. Last modified August 16, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bone-spurs/expert-answers/heel-spurs/faq-20057821

Mayo Clinic. “Cortisone Shots.” Last modified September 10, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cortisone-shots/about/pac-20384794

Thysol. “Kinesiology Taping for Heel Spurs and Plantar Fasciitis.” Accessed September 16, 2020. https://www.thysol.com.au/kinesiology-tape-applications/heel-spurs-plantar-fasciitis/#:~:text=Kinesiology%20Taping%20for%20Heel%20spurs,and%20stimulate%20a%20faster%20recovery.. 

WebMD. “Heel Spurs and Plantar Fasciitis.” Accessed September 15, 2020. https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/heel-spurs-pain-causes-symptoms-treatments#1