Dear Dr. Burk:

My regular doctor told me that I had heel spurs a couple of years ago. I was prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication and have taken it regularly ever since. But the spurs must still be there because sometimes I get terrible pain in my heels and it can really hurt just to stand. Are there any other ways that I can treat this problem at home?

Laura D., Boise, ID

Dear Laura,

If you are getting a stabbing pain in your heels and it hurts to stand, then you almost certainly have heel spurs. They are caused by a build-up of calcium deposits on the underside of the heel that put a strain on the foot muscles and ligaments. This is a problem that develops gradually over time and therefore takes a while to alleviate. With that said, there are a couple of things you can do immediately to facilitate healing.

  • You can do plantar fasciitis stretches to reduce heel pain caused by inflammation. The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot and connects your toes to your heel. This ligament experiences a lot of wear and tear from daily life and can become inflamed from too much pressure on the foot. It is this damage and inflammation of the ligament, a condition called plantar fasciitis, that causes heel spurs and a lot of foot pain. Take a look at this great set of wall and chair exercises. Do them once a day at your own pace. These are easy stretches that will loosen up the tight muscles in your calves and feet that aggravate plantar fasciitis.
  • Get a shoe insert made to reduce pain associated with heel spurs. We make custom orthotics for our patients that should be covered by your insurance. If you are in a hurry and looking for a do-it-yourself option, I recommend getting either Samurai Insoles or ViveSole Plantar Fasciitis Insoles. These are products which have been designed by podiatrists. The Samurai insoles have raised heel beds that evenly distribute pressure across the bottoms of the feet. The ViveSole Insoles have shock absorption pads. Either of these products will provide cushioned support that helps anyone with plantar fasciitis and heel spurs walk more comfortably, and they are very affordable.

I hope this answers your question and will give you some alternatives that can help right away with heel pain. Give it a good couple of months with the exercises and use of a shoe insert, as well as continuing your medication. This will give the tissues that run along the bottom of your foot time to start healing. If you still don’t see any improvement, I would recommend making an appointment with a podiatrist near you.