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How do I Know if I Have a Heel Spur?

Your foot is a complex network of muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and joints all working together to keep you upright and mobile. When it’s injured or infected, it can literally stop you in your tracks. But the term foot pain covers a lot of ground. Depending on where it’s located, what triggers it, how you describe it, and what caused it, it could be anything from an ingrown toenail or a bunion to Achilles tendonitis or arthritis, just to name a few conditions.


But if you suspect a heel spur, a bony growth on the front part of your heel, the only way to know for sure is to seek the help of a qualified podiatrist like Dr. Gary Kazmer at Kazmer Foot & Ankle Centers. Because the symptoms of a heel spur often overlap with symptoms of other foot problems, he expertly evaluates your foot to give you an accurate diagnosis and a customized treatment plan. 

Heel spurs are tricky to self-diagnose, but here are a few signs that can help you narrow down the possibilities and prompt you to come in and see Dr. Kazmer. 

Foot pain 101

Inflammation is one of the main causes of pain in any part of the body, and your foot is no different. Inflammation could either be the primary source of your pain or a secondary source. A thorough exam will give us some definite answers. 

If you think you might have a heel spur, it helps to rule out a few symptoms first. As we mentioned, foot pain could point to a lot of different conditions, so we start by asking some questions.

Where does it hurt?

There are three main parts of your foot’s anatomy: The forefoot (toes), the midfoot (arch), and the hindfoot (heel and ankle). If you feel pain in the forefoot or midfoot, we can feasibly rule out a heel spur.

If you have pain in your hindfoot, you might be a heel spur.

What does it look like?

While pain in your hindfoot area may or may not indicate a heel spur, there’s one telltale sign that generally can’t be mistaken: you can see it. A heel spur, which can grow up to a half an inch long, often protrudes at an angle that can be seen and felt externally.

When does it hurt?

Does your pain begin later in the day when you’re tired and been standing or walking for hours, or do you feel it first thing in the morning when your feet hit the floor? 

Heel spurs tend to make themselves known upon first use of the day. They share this symptom with another condition called plantar fasciitis. Both are notorious for making the morning walk across the bedroom a painful journey. 

Heel spur or plantar fasciitis, which is it?

Making it even more difficult to tell whether you have a heel spur, morning pain isn’t the only symptom shared by both heel spurs and plantar fasciitis. They both also cause sharp pain in the same spot:  the front of your heel. 

The difference is that, with plantar fasciitis, you’ll also have arch pain. That’s because plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the thick band of tissue that connects your heel to the ball of your foot, so you feel pain all along the length of it — heel spur pain stays put.

Although the two conditions are closely linked, plantar fasciitis can lead to heel spurs, but heel spurs don’t necessarily lead to plantar fasciitis.

Typical causes of plantar fasciitis are stress, being overweight, ill-fitting shoes, and any trauma that might damage the ligament. The inflammation prompts the heel bone to build itself up with calcium deposits that form a growth (heel spur) in an attempt to support the damaged fascia. Ironically, if left untreated, the heel spur ends up doing quite a bit of damage on its own. 

How to know for sure if it’s a heel spur

Even armed with all this information, the only way to tell for sure if you have a heel spur is to come in for an X-ray. In fact, many heel spurs are discovered this way even before symptoms appear. That’s because it takes several months before the growth gets long enough to cause irritation and pain. 

If you think you might be suffering from a heel spur or plantar fasciitis, we can help. From exercises and orthotics to medication, injections, and splints, we can get you started on a treatment plan that will help you heal and get back on your feet soon. Give us a call to set up an appointment or use our handy online booking tool

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