Heel spurs are commonly seen in two different areas of the foot.  Each has a little different presentation and the answer to this question is different for different areas.

  • Plantar Heel Spur:  This is a spur to the bottom of the foot.  This is the most common spur and has been show in current research to not cause pain.  Often an x-ray will show a "heel spur" in an individual with no pain.  It may also be associated with a condition called Plantar Fasciitis that causes pain with or without a heel spur.  In this case the spur is a symptom of the problem and not the problem itself.  It often doesn't need to be treated to solve the heel pain, instead treating the Plantar Fasciitis will solve the problem.
  • Retrocalcaneal Heel Spur: This is a spur in the back of the foot, in the area of the Achilles tendon attachment.  It often causes significant pain and inflammation to the area.   The condition is called Calcific Achilles Tendinosis and may require surgery to resolve the problem.  In this case, the spur is the reason for the pain and needs to be treated.
Brandt R Gibson, DPM
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Podiatrist, Neuropathy Doctor, Father of 11 and Founder of Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute