A heel spur is an osteophyte (bony outgrowth or calcium deposit) that develops on the heel bone (calcaneus). You may have a heel spur and not experience any symptoms at all, however, the spur may causes pain and inflammation when it pushes into the soft tissue at the bottom of the heel.
Heel spurs are strongly related to plantar fasciitis. 70 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis have a heel spur that can be seen on an x-ray. The bottom of the foot is supported by a shock absorber called the plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of this connective tissue. Plantar fasciitis is caused by excessive wear and tear on the fascia. Every time your foot strikes the ground your plantar fascia is stretched, when your heel lifts off the ground your plantar fascia experiences tension. Any extra tension coming from excessive training can result in overstretching, inflammation and/or micro-tearing of the fascia at your heel, the weakest point.
As your body tries to heal the fascia, a heel spur develops around the bottom and/or the back of your heel which protrudes into the soft tissue. It can vary in shape from a flat, shelf-like growth to a hook-shaped, pointy projection, and can extend forward up to a half inch. Your body hopes this extra bone and tissue will help to relieve the pressure on your plantar fascia. Heel spurs can affect your ability to do your usual work and/or activities, and can also trap and irritate the nerves in your heel area. They can change the way you walk and can lead to knee, hip and low back injuries. If severe, they may require medical intervention
Heel spurs are considered a self-limiting condition, which means you can control the pain and the progression of the condition by making some simple changes to your lifestyle. For example, improper shoes such as high heels and training too hard and too suddenly can put excessive strain on the plantar fascia. However, sometimes heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are related to other conditions like faulty foot mechanics such as being flat footed or having a high arch which affects the way you walk and run.
If you have inflammation in your heel or plantar, it’s very important to heal it quickly and completely. If you don’t, it may plague you forever.
Treatments for heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are aimed at reducing inflammation, pain, increasing the fascia’s range of motion, and speeding recovery time. A speedy and effective recovery should be your highest priority, not only so you can return to a high level of performance, but also because prolonged injuries can lead to scar tissue and a higher risk of re-injury.
At the onset of heel spurs and/or plantar fasciitis immediate measures should be taken in order to avoid serious damage. Ignoring the symptoms, thinking they will go away naturally, and continuing with activities that cause foot pain will certainly lead to more serious problems in the future.