If you’ve ever experienced heel pain, you might have come across the term ‘heel spur’ and wondered, “what does a heel spur feel like?”. The answer to that is a somewhat complicated one. The reason is, sometimes you don’t even feel a heel spur at all. So what is a heel spur in the first place? Read on to learn more…
What is a heel spur and what causes it?
Before addressing the question of what does a heel spur feel like, an understanding of the condition is required. A heel spur is a bony growth, which is a calcium deposit on the heel bone (the calcaneus). They are typically located either at the back of the heel or underneath the heel, on only one or both heels, depending on what has caused them to develop. Understanding what causes heel spurs helps us to make sense of the symptoms that may (or may not!) be associated with them.
Heel spurs develop over a long period of time, usually many months. They do not come about suddenly or overnight. The heel bone serves as an attachment point for some major tendons and ligaments in the lower leg and foot. When these attachment points are under constant strain due to pressure or stress on the associated ligament or tendon, a heel spur may develop. Repeated strain can be from tight calf muscles or activities such as jumping, walking barefoot on hard surfaces, or running. Suboptimal foot biomechanics can also be a common cause of heel spurs.
What does a heel spur feel like? What are the symptoms?
What a heel spur feels like or whether someone with a heel spur feels it at all, largely depends on what has caused the spur in the first place. If you asked a patient that had plantar fasciitis and an associated heel spur, “what does a heel spur feel like?”, they would likely describe some common symptoms of plantar fasciitis. If the patient does have a spur present, their spur will probably be underneath the heel, where their ligament attaches to the heel bone. A patient with a heel spur associated with Achilles tendonitis would have it at the back of their heel; they would describe symptoms commonly associated Achilles tendonitis.
In patients whose heel spurs are the source of discomfort, the pain actually comes from the physical pressure, or ‘digging in’ of the heel spur on the surrounding soft tissue structures, such as the heel fat pad or the Achilles Tendon. Some patients describe their pain as intermittent, some as constant. The pain can usually be pin-pointed to the location of the spur, and is worse when walking barefoot.
Bear in mind, sometimes heel spurs do not cause the patient any discomfort at all.
What does a heel spur feel like and how is it diagnosed?
If the answer to “what does a heel spur feel like?” is sometimes nothing at all, how are heel spurs then diagnosed? Heel spurs can only be accurately diagnosed on xray. In fact, in many cases, heel spurs are an incidental discovery when an xray of the patient’s foot is taken for other reasons.
Before looking for a heel spur, your sports podiatrist will need to exclude a number of other conditions, since the pain associated with heel spurs can be very similar to, or in fact caused by another underlying condition. In any case, your sports podiatrist will not normally be looking to remove the spur surgically or otherwise, but to treat the underlying cause.
If you have ever wondered “what does a heel spur feel like?”, the article above may have given you some insight into the situation. However, please be advised that the information provided above should not be taken as general medical advice, since it is for educational purposes only. If you are experiencing heel pain and wonder whether you might have a heel spur, you should consult with a suitably qualified sports podiatrist to discuss your condition. Appointments with our specialist sports podiatrist can be made by emailing [email protected] or by calling 0293883322.