5 Best Heel Spur Exercises to Relieve Pain

Feel intense pain each time you step down on the heel? You could have a condition known as a heel spur, and it can cause significant problems in mobility.

Heel spurs are very common, although not all cases result in heel pain – in fact, some knew having it only as an incidental finding on a foot x-ray.

Heel spurs do not cause permanent disability, but they can make walking painful. If your doctor found you have heel spurs, read this article so you will know more about the condition and how you can treat it yourself. 

What is a heel spur and why does it occur?

Heel spur happens when an abnormal bony growth (called ‘spur’) develops on the underside of your heel bone.

The heel bone is located right in the heel and carries most of the weight of your body and absorbs shocks generated when you walk or run, so any growth is likely to cause pain.

Note that the heel bone actually sustains damage when you overuse your feet, like when you walk or run for unusually long periods.

As part of healing, calcium deposits build up on the damaged area, and that usually causes no problems. However, repeated stress or injury may cause deposits to pile up, resulting in the formation of a spur. 

The spur also cause pain if it rubs the nearby plantar fascia, a thick connective tissue that covers the underside of the foot.

 If that happens, inflammation occurs in the plantar fascia, resulting in inflammation and pain especially when walking.

Things that cause heel spur:

Heel spurs often develop over time. It can also occur if you have health problems that cause damage to your bones.

Your chance of developing heel spurs increases if you have one or more of these factors:

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    Repeated stress or injury to the feet, like prolonged standing or too strenuous athletic activities.
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    Psoriatic arthritis.
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    Ankylosing spondylitis.
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    Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis.
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    Reiter’s disease.

Heel Spur Treatment

Doctors usually recommend conservative treatment to heel spurs since these bone growths can exist without causing any symptoms. The goal is to reduce inflammation and prevent re-injury.

They usually recommend rest on the affected foot – for the meantime, you can move about using crutches. Bed rests for days are not practical and therefore not recommended.

However, you should avoid long walks or other strenuous activities that might hurt your foot. If you have to drive, make sure to have frequent stops to allow your foot to rest.

If there is inflammation, doctors usually prescribe over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Naproxen.

Home care treatments include rest and rolling a frozen bottle of water under the foot for 10 minutes.

Surgery is not often routinely done to remove heel spur. It is only recommended if the spur is unusually large, cause significant problems in walking or presses on the nerves.

For more details treatment checkout our heel spur treatment page.

Five Exercises To Treat Heel Spurs

The good news is that heel spurs respond well to treatment. In fact, doctors recommend certain heel spur exercises to reduce pain and discomfort so you can walk and resume daily activities. 

Calf Stretch

This exercise is easy and only requires a wall to lean on. It works because it stretches the calf muscles, which are connected to the heel.

Start by facing the wall and:

  • Lean forward with the affected leg straight and the other bent.
  • Slowly move your hips toward the wall, and hold for 10 seconds. You should feel a strong pull on the calf muscle.
  • Release and return to start position.
  • Do the same with the other leg. Repeat 20 times for each foot. 

Step Stretch

You need a step bar or face a stairway to do this exercise. It works by stretching your calf muscles and plantar fascia. 

Start by standing on the step with your toes and:

  • Slowly lower your heel until you feel your calf muscles stretch. Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Do the same on the other foot.
  • Repeat 20 times for each foot.

Chair Stretch

This exercise requires you to sit on a chair, which is good because you can do this while watching the TV or using a computer.

So sit on the chair, with knees bent on right angles, and then:

  • Turn feet sideways. Touch heels together so your toes face outward in opposite directions.
  • Try your best to lift your toes upward while keeping your heels on the ground. Make sure your heels touch each other. You should feel a stretch in your calf and sole. Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Release and repeat the process 20 times. 

Towel Stretch

It follows the same principle. You will need a long towel for this. The best thing about this exercise is you can do this on the bed.

Start by sitting on the bed or floor and:

  • Stretch your legs.
  • Wrap the towel around your toes.
  • Hold the ends of the towel, and slowly pull towards you.
  • Hold once you feel your calf muscles stretch, and hold for 10 seconds.
  • Do the same on the other leg.

Manual Toe Stretch

This exercise requires you to sit in a chair and stretch your toes using your hand. Try doing this when having breaks.

Start by crossing the leg, and then:

  • Grab the toes on the crossed leg.
  • Pull the toes towards you until you feel a stretch. Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Release and do the same on the other foot.

Bottom Line: These heel exercises are effective because they strengthen the muscles surrounding the foot, reducing pain and immobility caused by a heel spur.

Note that these exercises will only work if you do them consistently and regularly. As a bonus, these exercises also strengthen your feet and relieve inflammation.

Aside from treating your feet like a baby, make sure you do each one of these exercises quite often, like every two hours or maybe five times a day, so you can treat heel spur pain.

Dr. Sachin

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