Heels spurs are a natural response to
excessively tight calves.
Our bodies respond to the forces and
demands placed upon them. When the plantar fascia on the bottom of the foot is constantly pulled tight by
chronically tight calf muscles, the heel bone responds by
growing out into the fascia to give it more support. This bony growth is a heel spur.
This is a slow process and generally
takes years to develop into what's commonly known as heel spurs. Early on the spurs just look like a little
point of bone.
Blade of a Knife
Years down the track, well formed heel
spurs look like the short blade of a knife on x-ray. If it was a knife stuck in your foot it would cause you a
lot of pain but this is not the case here. It's one
of the great red herrings of medicine. More commonly they are a pointy bit of bone.
The spur doesn’t cause the pain,
the spur and the pain are caused by the same thing - long term, increased tension on the
heel bone, almost always caused by tight calves.
These are the usual culprits behind the
heel spurs. I have never seen a person with heels spurs that didn't have tight calves. Almost always, the pain
subsides as the calves get looser.
The heel bone, or calcaneus, is the
largest bone of your foot. The achillies tendon attaches to the back of it. The 2 main calf muscles, the
gastrocnemius (gastroc) and the soleus, attach to the other end of the achillies. Together they pull the back of
the calcaneus up.
The plantar fascia attaches to the front
of the calcaneus. The other end of the fascia inserts into the ends of the furthest bones of the foot, the
metatarsals, and the nearest bones of the toes, the proximal phalanges. It pulls the calcaneus
forward. When the fascia becomes inflamed it is called plantar
fasciitis. And it hurts. Burning, searing pain.
All day there is a constant play between
the plantar fascia pulling the calcaneus forward, and the calf muscles pulling it back and up.
The shear size, strength and purpose
of the calf muscles, gastroc and soleus, mean that when they're tight, the poor plantar fascia doesn't
stand a chance.
Chronically tight calves overwhelm the
counterbalancing force of the plantar fascia and the body responds by strengthening the insertion of the fascia
with more bone. This extra bone becomes a 'heel spur'.
It doesn't hurt because of the extra bone
that has been laid down. It hurts because of the strain that caused the bone to be laid down.
And that strain was probably caused by tight calves or
Fallen arches may be contributing to the problem. If they are, arch supports may be very
useful. You can get them out of the packet or custom made. Try the packet ones first as they are much
Your doctors' approach will be to inject cortisone into your heel. This may be the way to go
if the pain is severe and other approaches I've mentioned don't work. If you have the cortisone, remember
that you still have to stretch those calves because they will still be tight.
The surgical alternative is to go in and cut the spur out. Eeek! Remember, the heel spur
doesn't cause the pain, it's just a response to overly tight calves and plantar fascia. The reason having this
surgery can work is that the plantar fascia is detached from the front of the heel bone (calcaneus), when the
spur is removed, and so relieving the tension on it that causes the pain! Definitely a last
♦ Your heel spurs are most likely caused by tight calves.
♦ Stretch your calves for a few minutes at least a few times a day.
If you're serious stretch them every hour or more.
♦ The trick is high frequency and low to moderate intensity.
Do lots of them, not very hard.
If just stretching your calves a lot or off the shelf orthotics don't substantially
reduce or fix your problem, seek out an osteopath or other suitably qualified professional, like a
podiatrist. An osteopath will assess and treat you for mechanical problems in your feet, ankles,
knees, hips, pelvis and spine that may be causing or contributing to your problem. A podiatrist will custom
make a pair of orthotics.