When the body is under stress or constent inflammation it will deposit calcium to our bones. This added 'bone growth' is designed to relieve the added stress/pressure to our connective tissue. In the case of a heel spur, added calcium to the heel bone (calcaneus). It usually forms at the bottom underside of the heel bone where the plantar fascia attaches. This calcium deposit forms over a period of many months. Heel bones can very in shape and size from person to person. An irregular shape heel (calcaneus) can cause the tissue to twist (plantar ligament and Achilles tendon) or a smaller heel bone will put additional stress on tendons and ligaments.
It is widely accepted now that the presence of this bony growth is not the cause of heel pain, but rather an effect of an underlying biomechanical foot problem where the soft tissue structures that are attached to the heel bone are pulling excessively on that area. At some point down the track, heel pain may develop, but the bony heel spur is not the cause of the heel pain.
Symptoms may be similar to those of plantar fasciitis and include pain and tenderness at the base of the heel, pain on weight bearing and in severe cases difficulty walking. The main diagnosis of a heel spur is made by X-ray where a bony growth on the heel can be seen. A heel spur can occur without any symptoms at all and the athlete would never know they have the bony growth on the heel. Likewise, Plantar fasciitis can occur without the bone growth present.
A thorough history and physical exam is always necessary for the proper diagnosis of heel spurs and other foot conditions. X rays of the heel area are helpful, as excess bone production will be visible.
Non Surgical Treatment
Perform some exercises. Exercises that strengthen and lengthen your plantar fascia can also be very helpful for heel spurs. Try some of the following activities. Calf stretch. Place your hands on a wall. Extend 1 foot (0.3 m) behind you with your knee straight and place the other foot in front of you with the knee bent. Push your hips toward the wall and hold the stretch for 10 seconds. You should feel a pull in your calf muscles. Repeat the stretch 20 times for each foot. Plantar fascia stretch, Perform this exercise in the morning before you've done any standing or walking. Cross your injured foot over the knee of your other leg. Grasp your toes and gently pull them toward you. If you can't reach your toes, then wrap a towel around them and pull on the towel. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 20 times for each foot.
Surgery to correct for heel spur syndrome is a common procedure which releases plantar fascia partially from its attachment to the calcaneous (heel bone). This part of the surgery is called a plantar fasciotomy due to the fact the fascia is cut. This is most often done through an open procedure as any heel spur or bursa can be removed at the same time. If the spur is not removed during the surgery, it will probably be just as successful, as the large spur is not the true problem. Some physicians use an endoscopic approach (EPF) where a small camera aids the physician during surgery with typically smaller incisions on each side of your foot.
Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis can only be prevented by treating any underlying associated inflammatory disease.