A heel spur is a bony protrusion or growth from the underside of the heel bone. It forms over time due to repetitive muscular and ligament strain from activity such as walking, running, and jumping. It is a condition often associated with plantar fasciitis, which is the inflammation of the fibrous tissue that runs from the heel bone to the ball of the foot, causing heel pain. Contrary to popular belief, a heel spur itself does not cause pain at the heel; rather it is the soft tissue injury associated with it.
The heel spur is simply the reaction to the problem at hand, not the cause. These associated soft tissue injuries usually cause a sharp pain at the heel with the first steps in the morning or with the initial steps after rest. Some report the pain turns into a dull ache and comes back with increased activity throughout the day.
You can definitely increase your risk of developing a heel spur and associated heel or plantar arch pain by:
- Wearing unsupported footwear
- Not addressing fault foot mechanics and abnormal gait patterns
- Increasing weight bearing activity, especially in sports that require you to run and jump
- Being overweight
Although a heel spur can only be removed by surgical means, the associated pain from various soft tissue injuries can be managed through conservative means such as rest, ice, proper footwear, custom foot orthotics, and daily stretching.
Look for shoes that have a cushioned sole with arch support rather than a shoe that is completely flat. A good shoe will also have good torsional stability, a firm heel counter, and a roomy toe box. In addition, for home shoes, opt for sandals or slippers with a cork foot bed and again, arch support is a priority.
Talk to your local Chiropodist for advice on custom foot orthotics. A custom insole will support your foot in all the right places and correct any harmful compensations or abnormal gait patterns. Furthermore, a heel pad may be added to provide additional cushioning or a horseshoe pad which will offload the heel spur/area of pain.
Finally stretching the muscles and tendons of the foot will reduce tension in these soft tissues as well as strengthen them.
Calf stretched against the wall and on a step are particularly helpful. Remember to hold your stretch for 15-30 seconds, repeating the exercise 10 times on each leg.
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