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Heel Spur

What are heel spurs?

Heel spurs are small, bony growths on the heel. A spur may develop when the ligament that connects the heel bone to the bones in the toes (plantar fascia) becomes inflamed.

A person with a heel spur may not be aware of any symptoms. If symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Pain or tenderness over the weight-bearing part of the bottom of the heel.
  • A bump that can sometimes be felt when the area is touched.

But symptoms in the heel are most often caused by inflammation rather than by the spur itself.

A heel spur can be diagnosed by looking at an X-ray. In most cases the spur is not the main cause of the heel pain, so the spur is typically left alone and the cause of the heel pain is treated. For instance, a painful and inflamed tendon near the spur (plantar fasciitis) may need treatment. If a spur is found to be the main cause of the heel pain, surgery or injections may be needed.

  • Symptoms

    What are the symptoms of a bone spur?

    Many people have bone spurs without ever knowing it, because most bone spurs cause no symptoms. But if the bone spurs are pressing on other bones or tissues or are causing a muscle or tendon to rub, they can break that tissue down over time, causing swelling, pain, and tearing. Bone spurs in the foot can also cause corns and calluses when tissue builds up to provide added padding over the bone spur.

  • Diagnosis

    How is a bone spur diagnosed?

    A bone spur is usually visible on an X-ray. But since most bone spurs do not cause problems, it would be unusual to take an X-ray just to see whether you have a bone spur. If you had an X-ray to evaluate one of the problems associated with bone spurs, such as arthritis, bone spurs would be visible on that X-ray.

  • Treatment

    How is a bone spur treated?

    Bone spurs do not require treatment unless they are causing pain or damaging other tissues. When needed, treatment may be directed at the causes, the symptoms, or the bone spurs themselves.

    Treatment directed at the cause of bone spurs may include weight loss to take some pressure off the joints (especially when osteoarthritis or plantar fasciitis is the cause) and stretching the affected area, such as the heel cord and bottom of the foot. Seeing a physical therapist for ultrasound or deep tissue massage may be helpful for plantar fasciitis or shoulder pain.

    Treatment directed at symptoms could include rest, ice, stretching, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. Education in how to protect your joints is helpful if you have osteoarthritis. If a bone spur is in your foot, changing footwear or adding padding or a shoe insert such as a heel cup or orthotic may help. If the bone spur is causing corns or calluses, padding the area or wearing different shoes can help. A podiatrist (foot doctor) may be consulted if corns and calluses become a bigger problem. If the bone spur continues to cause symptoms, your doctor may suggest a corticosteroid injection at the painful area to reduce pain and inflammation of the soft tissues next to the bone spur.

    Sometimes the bone spurs themselves are treated. Bone spurs can be surgically removed or treated as part of a surgery to repair or replace a joint when osteoarthritis has caused considerable damage and deformity. Examples might include repair of a bunion or heel spur in the foot or removal of small spurs underneath the point of the shoulder.


    Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.