For years heel spurs were thought to cause pain under your foot. Doctors even called the problem “heel spur syndrome.” As the problem was studied more, researchers concluded that the pain didn’t occur in the spur but rather in the plantar fascia (the strong ligament at the bottom of your foot that connects your heel bone and toes) and other surrounding tissue. Plantar fasciitis and spurs often occur together, but what causes heel spurs is actually a combination of problems.
An anatomy lesson is helpful here. The plantar fascia fastens to your toes at one end and the bottom of the calcaneus (heel bone) at the other. Your Achilles tendon attaches at the back of the heel at one end and to the calf muscles at the other. All together they form a sort of continuum, so when the calf muscle or Achilles is tight, there is also extra tension on the fascia. This causes it to pull harder against the calcaneus.
The spur is your body’s way of protecting itself. As the fascia pulls against the bone, your body deposits more calcium in the area to release some of the tension. Over time, the calcium continues to build up until it hardens into a bony spur that can be as much as a half inch long.
This bony projection of the heel bone points toward the front of the foot and usually isn’t painful on its own. It can, however, irritate surrounding flesh and tissue when standing and walking, which can lead to inflammation and pain. Also, every time the fascia is stretched tight and pulls against the bone, you could feel a stabbing pain under the heel.
People with flat feet, overpronation issues (feet flattening out too much as they walk), or high arches are all prone to developing spurs, because of increased tension on the plantar fascia.
If you have stabbing heel pain in the morning, or with your first steps after sitting for a long time, don’t wait to get help. Southern California Foot & Ankle Specialists has a variety of conservative treatments for the condition—from stretching to custom orthotics. Call our office in Ladera Ranch, CA at (949) 364-9255 (WALK) to find out what is causing your troubles. Then we can provide treatment that will let you enjoy life again without foot pain.