What Are Spurs in the Foot?

Written by jane peterson
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What Are Spurs in the Foot?
An x-ray can be used to diagnose a heel spur. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

A foot spur, also known as a heel spur, is a common condition which frequently occurs with age. A heel spur is often confused with a painful foot condition known as plantar fasciitis, but a heel spur rarely causes pain. If you are experiencing foot pain, it is important to determine what is causing the pain and to eliminate risk factors which may be contributing to the pain.

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Identification of Foot Spurs

A foot spur is an added growth of bone which occurs on the calcaneus, also known as the heel bone. The spur usually forms just on the underside of the bottom of the calcaneus, and it generally resembles a small bump or knot on the bottom of the bone.

Although spurs on the feet are a common condition, they do not usually cause heel pain. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states that one out of 10 people have a heel spur, but only five per cent of people with a heel spur experience foot pain.

Causes of Foot Spurs

Spurs on the feet can often develop with age as the cartilage and fat that pads the feet begins to wear away, but additional factors can increase risks for the development of spurs.

Spurs can form as a direct result of continual pressure on the heel of the foot. Activities such as jogging, running, dancing, working all day on your feet, wearing shoes that are too tight or even high arches can all increase risks for the formation of a foot spur.

Wearing high heels too often can also lead to the formation of a heel spur; continual high heel wear can reduce the length of the Achilles tendon leading to increased pressure on the heel. A spur caused by high heels is so common that this condition is also sometimes called a '"pump bump."

Foot Spurs and Plantar Fasciitis

Spurs on the feet are frequently confused with, or mistaken as, a condition known as plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a condition which occurs when the piece of tissue under the foot, known as the plantar fascia, becomes irritated and inflamed.

The plantar fascia tissue stretches across the bottom of the foot, from the heel to the toes, and connects the heel and the toes. Heel pain occurs when this tissue becomes irritated and inflamed. Because plantar fasciitis is caused by many of the same risk factors --- activities that place continual pressure on the heel or the bottom of the foot --- which lead to the development of spurs on the feet, plantar fasciitis and feet spurs often occur together. However, it is plantar fasciitis which is the most common cause of heel pain.

What to Do If You Experience Heel Pain

In the past, heel pain was often attributed to spurs on the feet and surgical methods were used to remove the spurs. Today, it is known that spurs are rarely the cause of pain in the feet or the heels and that the pain is most likely caused by some other type of condition such as plantar fasciitis.

If you are experiencing heel pain, it is best to see a podiatrist as soon as possible. The podiatrist will obtain a history on your pain, inquire about any habits or lifestyle activities which may have contributed to the heel pain and in many cases an x-ray will be taken of the foot.

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