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Sports Injuries

Updated 29 March 2016

Heel spur syndrome

Heel spurs are bony growths near the attachment of the plantar fascia to the heel, that result from repetitive stresses and inflammation in the plantar fascia.

Heel spurs are bony growths near the attachment of the plantar fascia to the heel, that result from repetitive stresses and inflammation in the plantar fascia.

Heel spurs are the body's response to injury and inflammation as the bone thickens in order to protect itself from excessive pulling by an overworked muscle or tendon.

Causes
Causes can include overstretching a tight plantar fascia through general overuse, which causes small tears.

Contributing factors include:

  • Flat foot
  • High arch
  • Excessive pronation
  • Obesity or sudden weight gain
  • Tight Achilles tendon
  • Sudden increase in activity intensity, time or type
  • Shoes with poor cushioning
  • Symptoms of plantar fasciitis
  • Pain at the arch ligament if standing on tiptoes
  • Pain at the start of exercise and when resuming activity after rest
  • Pain and swelling under the heel
  • Numbness along the outside of the sole of the foot
  • Pain worse first thing in the morning

Symptoms of a heel spur

  • Gradual pain felt around, underneath or at the back of the heel - usually aggravated by running
  • Stiffness in the mornings

What you can do for heel spurs

  • Seek medical attention as the spur may have to be removed
  • Reducing pressure on the bone can sometimes be sufficient and orthotic inserts may be helpful

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Ask the Expert

Sports Injuries Expert

Adrian Rotunno is a medical doctor in the Sports & Exercise Medicine fellowship at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, and qualified physiotherapist. Team physician for Dimension Data pro-cycling, and Boland Rugby. Special interests include endurance sport, in particular cycling, as well as contact sports.

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