Foot Conditions A-Z
Heel Spurs and Bone Spurs
Heel spurs (calcaneal spurs) are protrusions (bumps) on the forward underside of the heel bone that can occur when the plantar tendon pulls excessively in the area where it attaches to the bone. The condition is often associated with plantar fasciitis, although it can also occur on its own. Heel spurs typically are not painful unless they intrude into the soft tissue (plantar fascia), where they can cause irritation that results in heel pain.
Bone spurs (retrocalcaneal spur, or exostosis) can develop not only on the back of the heel, but also on the toes, mainly around the fifth (small) toe. Most often, they occur next to the toenail on the outside of the toe; on the inside of the toe near the tip, where the fifth toe presses against the fourth toe; and on the inside of the base of the toe.
Bone spurs can also occur on the sides of the toes. This is usually due to wearing shoes that are too tight in the toe box, which causes the toes to press against each other. Bone spurs may also develop in the arch area of the top of the foot; this area becomes painful when you tie your shoelaces tightly or exert other pressure on that part of the foot. Formation of spurs in this area is often associated with arthritis.
In addition to the causes described above, heel and/or bone spurs may be caused by the following:
- Unusual or abnormal motion in the joints over time
- Excessive tension on the bone from a tendon
- Trauma--both severe and repetitive (everyday "wear and tear")
- The aging process
- Conditions such as osteomyelitis (bone infection) and Charcot foot
- General inflammation
Prevention and Treatment
To help prevent heel and bone spurs, IPFH suggests you wear footwear, properly selected and fitted as part of an integrated approach. Properly designed and fitted shoes or boots provide sufficient room in the toe box so as not to compress the toes. They should also provide cushioning in appropriate areas to minimize the possibility of the irritation and inflammation that can lead to bone spurs in the feet. If needed, use inserts that provide arch support and a slight heel lift to help ensure that not too much stress is placed on the plantar fascia. This helps to reduce the possibility of inflammation and overstress.
Wearing padded socks can also help by reducing trauma. Peer-reviewed, published studies have shown that wearing clinically-tested padded socks can help protect against injuries to the skin/soft tissue of the foot due to the effects of impact, pressure and shear forces.
Also consider getting your gait analyzed by a foot health professional for appropriate orthotics.
If you have heel pain, toe pain or top-of-the-foot pain, see your doctor or foot specialist to ensure that a spur has not developed.
Bone spurs occur naturally as we age and are not always the result of a medical condition. While they typically do not cause a great deal of pain, spurs are frequently an indication of an inflammation of muscles, tendons, or ligaments and can signify an anomaly in your gait.
Bone spurs generally don’t require special treatment, but if they limit your range of motion or your ability to perform work or daily tasks, you may need to consider surgery.
Always talk with your doctor if you have soreness, pain, redness, swelling or other indications of problems in any area of your feet that persist for more than a few days.