Foot pain can make normal daily activities difficult and unpleasant. When that pain is in your heel, it’s even trickier because your heel is usually the first part of your foot that hits the floor when you take a step.
Often heel pain comes from heel spurs, which are more common than people think! They often come along with plantar fasciitis, making the pain even worse. If you’ve got plantar fasciitis, you’re much more likely to develop a heel spur.
Good news! Home remedies and natural treatments for heel spurs can make a huge difference to your pain, so you don’t need to consider drastic measures like surgery yet!
Here are some of the best remedies that will help you treat heel spurs naturally.
Remember, though, that if plantar fasciitis is an underlying factor in your heel spurs, you’ll need to take steps to treat it as well.
What Are Heel Spurs?
Heel spurs—also called calcaneal spurs—are tiny overgrowths of bone in the heel. These little bony growths often occur at the point where your plantar fascia—the thick band of tissue under your foot—meets the heel bone.
They develop in response to inflammation or trauma to the underside of the foot or heel, which triggers an overproduction of calcium, creating new bone growth. They may grow into a small horn-like shape or be mostly flat against the heel bone.
The pain generally occurs when fibrous tissue begins to grow over the bone spurs. This tissue build-up can begin to compress nerves and other tissue, leading to sharp pain when you step on the affected foot. This can sometimes ease up to become an aching pain throughout the day.
About 15% of people suffer from heel spurs. In many cases, they develop over time without being noticed until they’re large enough to be aggravated by activities like walking, running, and jumping.
Some people may develop only one heel spur, while others may develop a cluster of heel spurs. While they are more common in middle-aged people and occur most often along with plantar fasciitis, they can occur in anyone who has an active lifestyle and spends a lot of time on their feet.
Difference Between Heel Spurs and Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is a painful foot condition in which the thick band of tissue that runs under the foot from the ball of the foot to the heel—the plantar fascia—becomes inflamed, tight, and sore.
Heel spurs are small, bony growths that protrude from the heel bone and can sometimes cause pain when you step on them.
Regarding symptoms, both present with a sharp, shooting pain in the heel, especially after rest. However, plantar fasciitis tends also to include pain in the arch of the foot that starts to appear later in the day after you’ve been on your feet a lot. It may also cause pain and tightness in the Achilles, as the plantar fasciitis tightens.
What Causes Heel Spurs?
Heel spurs—and other bone spurs—are the body’s natural response to excess strain in the area. In many cases, this excess strain is caused by the plantar fascia pulling on the heel bone where it connects. This repetitive trauma causes a heel spur to develop.
However, people without plantar fasciitis may still develop a heel spur if they have repetitive force on the heel. Activities like running, sports that involve a lot of jumping, and jobs that involve being on your feet a lot can lead to heel spurs.
These high-impact activities can cause the membrane covering your heel bone to tear, which the body responds to by creating more bone in the repair process. Other potential causes of heel spurs include:
- Shoes that don’t fit properly.
- Spending many hours on your feet each day.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Flat feet or high arches that aren’t properly supported.
- Diabetes and normal aging.
Heel Spurs Symptoms
It’s important to note that in many cases—especially when plantar fasciitis is not a factor—heel spurs cause no symptoms. You may have heel spurs for years before you ever notice pain.
However, when paired with plantar fasciitis or when advanced, heel spurs present with a sharp, stabbing pain that some sufferers liken to being stabbed with a pin or a knife in the heel.
This pain typically pops up when you return to your feet after resting. However, if it becomes constant, it may settle into a dull but ever-present ache when you walk or you’re on your feet for long periods of time.
Home Remedies and Natural Treatments for Heel Spurs
Heel spurs are permanent, although you can surgically remove them if it gets that bad. However, most of the time, home remedies and natural treatments for heel spurs work quite well.
Use Cushioned Shoes and Orthotic Inserts
The shoes for heel spurs you wear should have the right arch support for your foot. This is essential for keeping the plantar fascia in position and preventing your foot from moving out of a normal gait position.
There should also be a good amount of cushioning in the shoe or sandal to protect your heel. The plantar fascia is responsible for shock absorption, so you need a shoe that will do the shock absorption for you.
They should also be comfortable for your foot, have a snug heel cup, and have enough room in the toe box for your toes to splay naturally, especially when you walk or run.
An alternative to buying new shoes is to use orthotics. You can find insoles over the counter, but you never quite know if they’re going to fit your feet or provide the support you need.
Going to a podiatrist to get custom orthotics created for your feet could be the best choice. You can move your orthotics from shoe to shoe, and they should provide the exact support your foot needs to relieve the pressure of the heel spurs.
Rest the Heel
While it’s hard to rest your feet properly because we use them every day, it’s a good idea to try and rest your heels to help the inflammation go down.
See if you can spend a few days off your feet, or at least not spend as much time on your feet as you normally would. Avoid high-impact sports or activities likely to aggravate the heel and cause pain.
If you have to—and if you have access to a pair—you can use crutches for a few days to completely take any pressure off the foot.
Soak Your Feet in Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is the purest form of magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is an essential mineral in the body, and it plays a role in bone formation and calcium absorption.
Soaking your feet in a warm bath with Epsom salt can relieve pain. The warm water relaxes your foot muscles and the magnesium sulfate is absorbed quickly through your skin, and gets to work on the area.
If you don’t have Epsom salt, it’s said that apple cider vinegar can also help. One of the things ACV is reported to do is absorb excess calcium, which may help to stop the bone spur from growing more.
Massage Your Feet
Massage can also help to relax your foot muscles, and if you use certain essential oils, they may have an analgesic effect. Rose, rosemary, and lavender may help ease the pain, so if you want to, add a few drops to your carrier oil.
Massage can also help to break up scar tissue in the foot, which may reduce pressure on the painful part of the heel. Warm the oil a little in your hands before applying to your sensitive feet!
Cold can reduce inflammation in the plantar fascia, which can reduce the pain from both plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. Use an ice pack wrapped in a towel or cloth and apply it to your heel – don’t put ice or an ice pack directly on your skin.
You can do this a few times a day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. It’s effective at relieving pain associated with heel spurs and PF.
Vitamins and Supplements
Magnesium and vitamin D are both essential for calcium absorption. You may be more prone to developing bone spurs if deficient in either. Deficiencies are more common than many people assume! Taking a supplement can help immensely.
Maintain a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle
Generally, if you’re following a healthy diet and lifestyle, you shouldn’t suffer from vitamin deficiencies. If you aren’t living a healthy life, making some positive changes could help to balance your levels.
Getting your recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week, spending time outdoors, getting sunlight, and getting enough good quality sleep are essential.
Stretch Exercises for Heel Spurs
Stretching your feet can loosen up a tight plantar fascia and relieve the pain on the heel. Especially when you sleep or rest your feet for a few hours, the plantar fascia tightens up.
When you get up again and stretch it without warming it up lightly, it can cause microtears in the tissue, which only make the pain worse.
Stretching your feet regularly can keep those muscles, ligaments, and tendons warm and prevent this from happening. Try these stretches:
- Foot flex
- Wall squat with calf raise
- Standing wall calf stretch
More Tips to Deal With Heel Spurs
Dealing with heel spurs can be a painful and frustrating process. Aside from using the above home remedies and natural treatments for heel spurs, you can try these actions to ease your pain and make daily tasks easier.
- Maintain a healthy body weight to alleviate strain on your feet.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables—they contain vitamins and minerals.
- Try using night splints to keep the plantar fascia from tightening up.
- Try to keep your feet elevated when resting.
- Never go barefoot! Always have cushion underfoot.
- Stretch your feet before taking your first step in the morning.
- Try not to be on your feet for hours without resting your PF.
- Get natural sunlight, as it gives you a dose of vitamin D.
- Reduce stress as much as possible.
- Acupuncture can alleviate pain.
- Physiotherapy may also help.