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Heel Spurs - What Do They Mean for Your Heel Pain?

Heel Spurs - What Do They Mean for Your Heel Pain?

It’s not uncommon for us to see patients complaining of pain from heel spurs. They often describe a sharp pain at the bottom of their foot with each step that feels like a ‘sharp knife’. But what is a heel spur and is it the cause of your heel pain?

What is a heel spur?

A heel spur is a bony protrusion or growth at the bottom of your heel bone (calcaneus), formed from calcium. On x-ray, it looks like a spike projecting down from the middle of the heel bone.

Heel spurs are caused by the pull on tissues and muscles that attach to the heel bone. This process occurs over time and particularly in those whose regular activities put excess strain on the tissues of the heel such as running and jumping. Other contributing factors include:
  • Abnormal foot posture that place excess stress on the tissues surrounding the heel
  • High impact activities
  • Unsupportive footwear
  • Increased weight

How do they cause heel pain?

Typically, it’s not the spur itself that is painful but the soft tissue surrounding the spur that becomes tender and swollen. One of these tissues is the plantar fascia and this is how heel spurs are often associated with Plantar Fasciitis. This produces symptoms including:
  • Sharp stabbing pains
  • Throbbing or aches at the heels
  • Pain on standing after rest

Can the pain be something other than a heel spur?

Absolutely. Having heel pain doesn’t mean you have a heel spur, just like having a heel spur doesn’t mean that you have heel pain. In our experience we’ve seen plenty of patients who will have a heel spur on a foot that isn’t painful and have no spur on the foot that has heel pain (see the fact box below!). Your Podiatrist will go through a thorough biomechanical examination and where indicated, send you for an x-ray to get an accurate diagnosis and provide the most effective treatment.

Here at The Podiatrist we are committed to not only treating the symptoms of your heel pain and get you walking and running pain-free, but also take the right steps to minimise the risk of it ever happening again. We put you first so you can get back to doing the things you love and realise your full potential!

If you have heel pain or are worried you may have a heel spur, give us a call! We’d love to provide you with the best in podiatric care in Toowoomba and beyond.

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Additional reading - research facts!

In 2014, a study examining x-rays from 900 people from a variety of age ranges found that 38% had a spur at either the bottom or back of their heel. This same study found them to occur more frequently in women below the age of 50, and the general prevalence of heel spurs to be higher in the age range of 40 to 79 years old. While this study didn’t examine whether those people with heel spurs had any heel pain, the relatively common prevalence of spurs does support the findings of other studies that showed that having a heel spur did not mean you had heel pain, and vice versa. You could be walking around on a heel spur right now and not even know it!
Toumi H, Davies R, Mazor M, et al. Changes in prevalence of calcaneal spurs in men & women: a random population from a trauma clinic. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2014;15:87.
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Our expert team will get you out of pain and back to doing the things you love.