Heel spurs are a frequent culprit of foot pain seen in pedorthic clinics. The pain can range from a dull nagging ache that feels like there is a rock in your shoe, to an excruciating pain that prevents you from walking, standing or doing your regular activities.
Also known as calcaneal spurs, heel spurs typically develop from repetitive damage to the heel which causes calcium deposits to form. Ongoing damage can lead to a buildup of calcium, which causes frequent pain. X-rays are often used to confirm heel spurs but they can also be detected through a medical exam and palpation.
There are two common types of heel spurs:
- An Inferior Calcaneal Spur results from repetitive stress to the bottom of the heel, causing the area to become painful. As this type of heel spur causes discomfort similar to plantar fasciitis pain, it is important to take an X-ray to ensure it is not mistakenly treated as plantar fasciitis.
- A Posterior Calcaneal Spur results from repeated trauma to the back of the heel where the Achilles tendon attaches. This specific spur is often present to the naked eye and easy to feel.
There are a number of successful treatment strategies for heel spurs. Custom made foot orthotics are commonly used to reduce pressure areas. Typically, the orthotic is designed with a heel well, a hole cut out of the bottom of the heel cup, which is then filled with soft material, to cradle or cushion the inflamed area and reduce pressure and impact forces when walking, standing or being active. Physiotherapy is also often used to strengthen and stretch the area. Icing the bottom of the foot is recommended to reduce inflammation. Some individuals may also find relief with heel spur cushions, which are soft pads put under a patients heel inside their shoes, while other individuals may be advised to purchase new footwear if their existing footwear has lost its cushioning capabilities or its structural integrity.
If you think you have a heel spur or have heel pain, check with your doctor or consult a Certified Canadian Pedorthist to determine which treatment course is right for you.
By Steve Stredulinsky C. Ped (C) Calgary, Alberta