Like some other tissues in the body, bones can regenerate themselves and develop new growth. Unfortunately, sometimes the new growth comes in the form of an irregular protrusion on the bone known as a spur.
Bone spurs are frequently harmless and often go undetected. But if they impinge on nearby soft tissues like tendons or ligaments, they can cause pain and immobility.
Bone spurs can occur at many sites in the body, but there are two common sites in the heel where spurs can cause pain and interfere with your ability to do activities that involve running and jumping.
This guide explains the causes and symptoms of both types of heel spur:
Pain on the bottom of the heel
Pain on the bottom of the heel toward the front (just behind the arch) may be the result of heel spur syndrome. This occurs when a bone spur forms at the spot where the plantar fascia, a fibrous band that runs down the sole of the foot, inserts into the heel bone.
But the heel pain may not be caused by the bone spur. In fact, it’s much more likely the pain is the result of injury or inflammation in the planta fascia itself: plantar fasciitis. Even if imaging results reveal the presence of a bone spur, it’s probably not responsible for the pain.
But whether the pain was caused by bone spur syndrome or plantar fasciitis, both have similar initial treatment recommendations: resting, changing footwear, and stretching the calf and plantar fascia.
Pain on the back of the heel
Another spot that’s susceptible to the growth of bone spurs is at the top and back of the heel, where the heel bone connects with the Achilles tendon.
A bone spur in this location can irritate the Achilles tendon, causing pain and inflammation—this is known as insertional Achilles tendonitis. It usually develops over time and is more likely to affect people in their 40s, 50s, or 60s.
Insertional Achilles tendonitis is different than regular Achilles tendonitis, which causes pain higher up, at the bottom of the calf.
Bone spurs can be treated nonsurgically and surgically, but the first step is to treat the inflamed structure (like the plantar fascia or Achilles tendon) that triggered the spur in the first place.