painful heels

There’s a myriad mystery and misinformation about heel spurs. Just the thought alone of having a hard protruding growth on the bottom of the heel is more than a little alarming — but really, it needn’t be.

What is a heel spur?

“A heel spur is a small bony growth at the underside of the heel bone. People call it a spur or a calcification. We might also call it an exostosis (a benign outgrowth of cartilaginous tissue),” explains sports podiatrist and founder of A Step Ahead Foot + Ankle Care Dr Brenden Brown.

“Heel spurs are incredibly common. I see it in about 40-50% of the x-rays I perform. “However, the vast majority of people with heel spurs experience NO PAIN whatsoever.

“In all of the time I have been a podiatrist (which is 20 plus years) I have seen two symptomatic heel spurs. I’ve seen lots of heel spurs but only two that have ever presented with associated pain.

“So if we talk about the signs of symptoms of heel spurs there aren’t really any apart from having a large bony or hard nodule on the underside of the heel pad that doesn’t feel the same as the other foot and cannot be depressed (pushed or squashed).

“99% of people who come to me saying they have pain from a heel spur do not have pain as a result of a spur.

“A heel spur won’t bother you unless it’s prominent beneath your foot and the orientation of the spur is angled more towards the ground; this could cause some pain and discomfort. However, I’ve read about these types of spurs but I’ve never even seen one. Not in 20 years of practicing.”

heel spur

5 heel spur facts

  1. Your pain is most likely not caused by a heel spur

The vast array of people with heel spurs have NEVER HAD A DAY OF PAIN in their life

  1. Heel spur pain doesn’t come and go like a yo-yo

In those very rare cases where people do have a heel spur that’s causing them pain—the pain doesn’t come and go.

“If you have a friend who tells you they had a heel spur and the pain went away you have to ask yourself ‘where did that pain go?’ The pain of a heel spur isn’t like the cast of Neighbours – it doesn’t travel from Melbourne to Queensland to get a job and never return!”

  1. Silica won’t cure a heel spur

“People have told me they took silica and it miraculously dissolves their spur. I have to ask these patients ‘how on earth did the silica dissolve your bony spur but manage to leave the rest of the foot in tact. How did it not also dissolve the frontal lobe of your skull?”

  1. No operation needed

Even if you do have a heel spur, which most of the time is an incidental finding on an x-ray, you don’t need an operation to remove it.

  1. Cortisone won’t help your heel pain

For most people cortisone is useless in treating heel pain. In fact, studies have shown that after three months 56% of people who were having cortisone injections for their heel pain had zero reduction in pain.

If it’s not a heel spur — what is causing my pain?

Heel pain can be caused by a variety of other reasons including: plantar fasciitis, plantar fasciosis, abductor hallucis strain or tibialis posterior tendinosis.

If you are suffering from heel pain, be sure to visit your local podiatrist but don’t be fooled into automatically thinking that it’s a heel spur—it’s highly likely that it’s not!

Related articles:

10 things you should know about heel pain

A Step Ahead Foot + Ankle Care is one of Sydney’s leading foot and ankle clinics. Principal podiatrist and founder of A Step Ahead Dr Brenden Brown (AKA Dr Foot) has been taking care of people’s feet for more than 20 years.

With a background in sports medicine and having served as a former president of the Australasian Podiatry Council, Brenden is a wealth of information when it comes to foot and ankle care.

Got a question? Check out our Instagram profile #AskDrFoot 

Or, tune into our Facebook page for regular live videos and updates on the latest foot and ankle advice from the experts.