Unfortunately, for most people, heel spurs have less to do with shiny metal on cowboy boots and more to do with bony growths on the bottom of their heels. They are usually associated with plantar fasciitis.
How Heel Spurs Happen
In order for these bony growths to form, it takes repeated strain and injury to the muscles, ligaments and tissues in your foot. This can be caused by:
1. An uneven walking gait, such as a limp
2. Overdoing high-impact workouts, like running or jumping
3. Being overweight
4. Having the wrong type of shoe for your activity, especially those without arch support
While having a calcified growth on your heel may sound painful, it usually isn’t. Pain is typically due to the spur irritating tissues that are stretched along the sole of the foot (plantar fascia) causing plantar fasciitis. Pain tends to be worse when stepping down on the heel, often in the morning or after sitting for a long time. Treatment for plantar fasciitis depends on the severity of pain but can include physical therapy, stretching, orthotics, NSAIDs, ice, steroid injections and, in rare cases, surgery.
How to Prevent Heel Pain
By reducing the amount of strain and injury to your foot, it’s possible to reduce pain due to a heel spur, or to even prevent one from forming in the first place. Try these steps:
1. Get the right shoes. Are you walking long distances? Be sure your shoes are cushioned and supportive enough to handle it.
2. Stretch. Loosening the muscles in your calves and the bottom of the feet can help treat and prevent heel pain. Using stretching aides can make it even easier.
3. Lose weight. Not always easy, but losing weight takes a lot of pressure off the strained muscles and ligaments in your heel. (Be sure to talk with your doctor before you start any weight loss program.)
4. Correct an uneven walking gait. This may require a trip to the doctor for possible orthotics, orthopedic shoes or assistive walking gear.
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American Podiatric Medical Association: “Heel Pain”
MedicineNet: “Heel Spurs and Plantar Fasciitis”
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Plantar Fasciitis and Bone Spurs”
WebMD: “Heel Spurs”