Do Custom Orthotics Help In Treating Heel Spurs?
October 21, 2018
What Are Heel Spurs?
A heel spur is a calcium deposit that causes a bony growth on the underside of the heel bone, extending forward towards the arch of your foot. X-rays are often used to confirm the presence of this calcium deposit, but patients can have symptoms associated with heel spurs without visible evidence (known as ‘heel spur syndrome’).
When examined under x-ray, heel spurs can extend as much as a centimeter from the heel bone (or calcaneous). Heel spur pain is one of the top 3 complaints from new patients to our clinics. It typically occurs past age 40’s, but we have seen it in teenagers, the very active, the inactive, the slim and the large, etc.
While symptoms always vary between individuals, some symptoms that may indicate the presence of heel spurs are:
- Sharp arch/heel pain, especially when waking up or getting up after sitting down for some time;
- Increasing pain, towards the end of a day on your feet, standing walking or running;
- Increased arch/heel pain when in flat shoes, thongs or barefoot;
- Improvement in supportive shoes, sports shoes or when wearing shoes with slight heels; and
- Improvement after massage or stretching of the calf muscles.
The pain associated with heel spurs is often described as a sharp pain first thing in the morning—like a knife in the heel—that fades to a dull ache throughout the day.
What Causes Heel Spurs?
Heel spurs are frequently associated with patients suffering from plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a tough fibrous band of connective tissue that connects the ball of the foot and the heel, running along the bottom of the foot. Inflammation of this tissue—known as plantar fasciitis—is closely related to heel spurs, which develop when the plantar fascia is under increased load or strain.
In response to plantar fasciitis, the body creates heels spurs in an attempt to protect the heel bone. Because plantar fasciitis is the primary cause of heel spurs, it’s important to know what lifestyle choices cause stress and damage to the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is susceptible to stress due to:
- Increasing age;
- Aged, heavily-worn, or unsupportive footwear;
- Spending excessive amounts of time on your feet, possibly due to a job in which you stand constantly;
- Being overweight or obese; and
- Incidents of trauma to the foot, such as may occur to runners and other athletes.
Do We Recommend Custom Orthotics for Heel Spurs?
In short: NO. In our experience, people can get better without the need for custom made orthotics, especially when their foot mechanics are fairly good, but their calf muscles are overly tight or they have been wearing shoes that are too soft and flexible. We never jump to the most expensive treatment option first and will always give you a home treatment plan of massage, stretching, improved footwear, etc. before recommending custom orthotics for heel spurs – they are our last resort!
Depending on your individual needs, we will pursue treatment options such as:
- Reducing high-impact exercises for a period of time;
- Having ‘rest breaks’ and sitting down through the day if you typically stand a lot;
- Stretching your calf muscles and your plantarfascias;
- Rolling your arch on an ice filled plastic bottle;
- Changing your footwear to shoes that improve your foot mechanics; and
- If appropriate, off the shelf orthotics for heel spurs (starting at $95).
While you don’t need custom orthotics for heel spurs, the use of pre-made orthotics can help relieve pressure on your feet, allowing the plantar fascia to recover and reducing your pain.
At Orthotics Solutions Podiatry, we recommend custom orthotics for some conditions such as overpronation or ‘flat feet’; however, studies have found that plantar fasciitis and heel spurs can be treated with pre-made orthotics.
Call Our Offices Today
If you suffer from intermittent or chronic heel pain and believe you may have plantar fasciitis or heel spurs, contact Orthotic Solutions Podiatry today to set up an appointment. We’ll have one of our friendly, knowledgeable podiatrists assess your feet and fit you for pre-made orthotics for heel spurs to get you pain free again.
Tel: 1300 1 2 FEET (3338)