Yes, jogging and jumping are great for your heart. But for your heels? Not so much.
Constant pounding on hard surfaces can create a heel spur, a half-inch bony protrusion on the bottom of the heel bone. If you’re lucky, heel spurs are painless, more an oddity than a condition needing treatment. But if you’re not so fortunate, heel spurs can inflame the soft tissue around the protrusion, causing you intermittent or chronic pain. If that happens, you can say goodbye to running those 10Ks.
What causes heel spurs?
Heel spurs happen when:
- Foot muscles and ligaments are strained
- Plantar fascia — fibrous tissue along the bottom of your foot that connects heel to toes — is stretched
- Membranes that cover the heel bone tear
Repeated foot pounding, common among professional athletes, causes calcium deposits to build up on the bottom of your heel bone, which forms the protrusion that causes inflammation. But you don’t have to be a track star to develop heel spurs. The condition also is created by:
- Gait abnormalities that stress the feet.
- Jogging or running on hard surfaces.
- Poorly fitting shoes.
- Obesity or excess weight.
- Standing a lot on your feet.
- Flat feet or high arches.
- Increasing age and diabetes.
Heel spur symptoms
Heel spurs become a problem when they cause pain, which patients compare to a pin or knife sticking into the bottom of their feet when they stand each morning. The pain morphs into a dull ache as the day wears on. Pain also occurs when you stand after sitting for a long time.
Heel spur treatments
Treatments run from the mechanical to the surgical. Luckily, 90% of heel spur sufferers get better without surgery.
Here are common, nonsurgical heel spur treatments.
- Ice packs after walking and exercise
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin
- Injections of anti-inflammatory medications such as cortisone
- Stretching exercises, especially before bed
- Physical therapy
- Resting your feet
- Orthotic shoe inserts that provide arch support
When it’s time for surgery
If all else fails, your podiatrist may recommend surgery to remove the heel spur and, sometimes, release the plantar fascia muscle. The aim is to reduce pain and get you moving again without discomfort.
If you feel like needles are piercing your foot, give Dr. Eichelsdorfer a call or set up a consultation online. He’ll diagnose your problem and, if the culprit is heel spurs, work with you to form a treatment plan.