Heel spurs are small bony growths, or a collection of growths, on the underside or back of the heel. Many people think a spur is something sharp that causes pain by pressing on tissue. In fact, these growths are usually flat and smooth.
While they are rarely painful on their own, heel spurs can lead to the formation of calluses as tissue accumulates to provide an extra cushion over the affected area. Wear and tear on joints, over time, may cause the spurs to compress against neighbouring nerves, tendons or ligaments, resulting in injured tissue, pain, swelling and tearing.
Spurs can develop as a result of repetitive strain on foot ligaments and muscles, as well as from abnormal stretching of the tissue that connects the heel and ball of the foot. Repetitive injury to the membrane lining the heel bone can also cause issues, as can tight pressure on the back of the heel from doing various activities like running, jumping, and even excessive walking in worn-out or improperly fitting shoes.
Heel spurs can be helped with anti-inflammatory medications, but these can cause adverse side effects with prolonged use – for example, gastrointestinal ulceration, bleeding or upset. Taping, deep tissue massage and physiotherapy can be very helpful. Arch support is also recommended, either with custom orthotics or shoe inserts.