Bone Spurs / Exostosis

People can often be confused about the terms plantar fasciitis and heel spur. While the two are actually related, they aren’t the same. Plantar fasciitis is when the plantar fascia becomes inflamed. A heel spur is a hooked bone that forms on the heal and is associated with the other condition, plantar fasciitis.

About 70 percent of people with plantar fasciitis actually have a bone spur that’s is visible on an x-ray. However, many people without pain symptoms might have a heel spur. The exact relationship between heel spurs and plantar fasciitis is not entirely known.

Picture of a Bone Spur

colorado foot institute bone spurs (exostosis)

Who is susceptible to heel spurs?

Heel spurs are a common condition in people who have a history of chronic foot pain due to plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is most commonly seen in middle-aged women and men, but may be seen in all ages.

The actual heel spur does not cause the pain, rather the irritation and inflammation of the tissue around the heel is the primary source of pain.

How Are Bone Spurs Formed?

A bone spur occurs when the body attempts to repair itself by creating extra bone. It usually occurs as a response to pressure, stress, or rubbing that continues over extended periods of time.

Some bone spurs occur as part of the growth process. As we grow older, cartilage will break down within the joints and will eventually wear away. Additionally, the discs that provide a sort of cushion between the bones in your spine may also break down as we age. Over time, this can lead to pain and swelling. In some cases, the formation of bone spurs will occur along the edges of the joint. Bone spurs that result from aging are very common on the feet and joints of the spine.

Bone spurs can also form within the feet as a response to ligaments that have been stretched tight, activities such as running and dancing that put pressure on the feet, and pressure from being overweight or from ill-fitting footwear. For instance, the ligament on the underside of the foot can become tight or stressed and pull on the heel, resulting in inflammation (plantar fasciitis). While the bone is trying to heal itself, a bone spur may form on the heel. Frequently wearing shoes that put too much pressure on the heel, such as high heels or “pumps”, can result in heel spurs as well.

Heel Bone Spur Symptoms

Many people develop bone spurs without even knowing it. This is because many bone spurs occur without symptoms. However, if the spur is pressing on tissues or other bones or is causing a tendon or muscle to rub, that tissue may break down over time, causing tearing, swelling, and pain. Bone spurs can also result in calluses and corns to help cushion the bone spur.

Prevention Methods

As stated earlier, bone spur formations are not always caused by external forces and may also be attributed to age and other internal factors. Having stated that, there are things you can do to help prevent bone spurs and heel spurs.

  • Try wearing more comfortable shoes if you wear tight or constricting shoes such as high heels
  • If you are unable to wear comfortable shoes all the time, try to wear them as often as possible
  • Try shoe inserts to help alleviate pressure to the heel
  • Consult a podiatrist to see if you may be prone to heel spur development

Bone Spur Diagnosis

A bone spur can usually be seen by x-ray. However, since many bones spurs are not problematic, you would probably only find out about the condition if it were causing pain. If an x-ray were preformed to evaluate one of the many problems associated with heel spurs, like arthritis, the spurs would be seen on that x-ray.

Bone Spur Treatment

Bone Spurs will not require treatment if they are not causing symptoms of pain or damaging surrounding tissues. When treatment is needed, it will be directed at the source of the symptoms, which are generally the bones spurs themselves and not the inflammation.

Treatment may include losing weight to alleviate pressure from the joints and stretching the afflicted area, like the bottom of the foot and the heel cord. Deep tissue massage may also help the sore area if the inflammation is not too severe. However, the bone spurs may become problematic and require surgery if alternative methods fail to alleviate pain. Dr. Mechanik can perform the bone spur surgery as an outpatient procedure, with a relatively quick recovery term. If you are experiencing pain within the foot or heel of the foot, it is recommended you set up an appointment to assess the source of discomfort and steps may be taken from that point to alleviate the symptoms, as well as treat the source of the pain.

We Can Help You

As director of the Colorado Foot Institute, Dr. Mechanik is dual Board Certified in Foot Surgery and Board Certified in Reconstructive Rear Foot and Ankle Surgery. He is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and a  Diplomate, American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery. He has the medical and surgical skills to treat your foot conditions. He and his family are natives of the Denver area.

Dr. Mechanik received his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) from the the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine which is part of the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, a national leader in medical education.

Dr. Mechanik then went on to complete a twenty-four (24) month post-graduate residency training program in Foot and Ankle Surgery. Dr. Mechanik further advanced his surgical training when he completed his twenty-four (24) month fellowship program in Lower Extremity Musculoskeletal Surgery.   During his fellowship, Dr. Mechanik worked side by side with an orthopedic surgeon, where he tackled the most complex and challenging foot and ankle conditions and surgeries.

The Colorado Foot Institute and Dr. Mechanik’s practice is exclusively limited to treating conditions of the foot and ankle.  Dr. Mechanik personally sees and follow all his patients from start to finish.  Call today to schedule your appointment (303) 333-3383.


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Dr. Joseph Mechanik is Certified by

American Podiatric Medical Associations
American Professionals Wound Care Association
American Board of Podiatric Surgery
American Collage of Foot and Ankle Surgeons