A heel spur is a bony growth that pokes out below your back heel bone inside your foot. Heel spurs happen when there’s stress on your foot ligaments. Most people don’t realize they have a heel spur until they seek help for heel pain. Heel spurs can't be cured. Healthcare providers recommend non-surgical treatments to ease symptoms associated with heel spurs.
A heel spur or bone spur is a bony growth that pokes out from the bottom of your heel, where your heel bone connects to the ligament running between your heel and the ball of your foot (the plantar fascia). Heel spurs affect about 15% of people.
Heel spurs develop over time. Most people don’t realize they have a heel spur until they seek help for heel pain. While heel spurs can be removed with surgery, healthcare providers recommend non-surgical treatments to ease symptoms associated with heel spurs.
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Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are related conditions but they're not the same. Here’s how the two conditions intersect:
Heel spurs are your body’s response to stress and strain placed on your foot ligaments and tendons. For example, when you develop plantar fasciitis, your body responds to the stress by creating a heel spur.
You can also develop heel spurs by repeatedly tearing the covering that lines your heel bone or if you have a gait disorder. (A gait disorder is when an illness or condition affects your balance and coordination so you can’t walk as you usually do.)
Healthcare providers typically examine your foot and ask about physical activity that might have caused your heel pain. Ultimately, X-rays are one of the most common tests that healthcare providers use to diagnose heel spurs.
Healthcare providers treat heel spurs the same way they treat plantar fasciitis. That’s because heel pain blamed on heel spurs is actually caused by plantar fasciitis. Treating the symptoms of plantar fasciitis can ease pain associated with heel spurs. Typical treatment includes:
Your heel spur might be removed as part of plantar fasciitis surgery, but healthcare providers rarely perform surgery to remove heel spurs.
Once formed, heel spurs are permanent. Surgery is the only way to remove a heel spur. Since heel spurs usually don’t hurt, treating the condition that caused your heel spur should help ease your heel pain.
Several factors increase your risk of developing heel spurs. Some factors are things you can change right away or change over time. Others you cannot change.
Other conditions usually cause heel spurs. There are treatments that can ease the pain of these underlying conditions, but surgery is the only way to remove a heel spur. Ask your healthcare provider if surgery is an appropriate solution to your heel spur problem.
Once you have a heel spur, you’ll always have a heel spur. Fortunately, heel spurs generally don’t hurt. But you should plan on managing the symptoms associated with heel spurs. Here are some steps you can take:
Talk to your provider if treatment for your heel pain doesn’t seem to help. While heel spurs don’t always hurt, ongoing heel pain might be a sign that it’s time to try other treatments or check for other potential problems.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A heel spur happens when stress and strain damage your plantar fascia, the ligament on the bottom of your foot. Heel spurs usually aren’t the reason why your heel hurts. You probably learned about your heel spur when you sought help for heel pain. Even if your heel spur didn’t cause your heel pain, you should still pay attention to your heels. If your heels hurt when you do certain activities, talk to your healthcare provider about additional steps you can take to ease your heel pain.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/19/2021.
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