Foot pain can be a real heel of a problem (pun intended). If you've ever had aching or pain in your heel, you might have heard of two common reasons – a heel spur or plantar fasciitis. These foot problems do have some similarities but are each different in their own right. As a foot doctor. many of my patients first come to me because of either of these foot issues. In this guide, we will do a deep dive into the world of how you know if you have a heel spur vs. plantar fasciitis. This will also include exploring their similarities, differences, symptoms, and treatment options. If you like how this sounds, and would like to learn more, continue reading below.
A Heel Spur vs Plantar Fasciiits: Similarities & Differences
Table of Contents:
Understanding a Heel Spur vs Plantar Fasciitis
Before we jump into the specifics, let's understand the basics of what a heel spur is vs what plantar fasciitis is.
A heel spur is a bony growth that develops on the heel bone, or calcaneus. For this type of heel spur, the new bone growth is seen on the bottom of your heel bone. Typically, heel spurs are not painful by themselves. More people than we think are walking around perfectly fine with heel spurs that they don't even know they have, that aren't causing them pain or other foot problems.
Many people believe that a heel spur forms from the plantar fascia pulling too much or excessively on the heel bone, this is incorrect. The heel spur that you see on an X-ray comes from the pull of a small muscle that works alongside the plantar fascia called the flexor digitorum brevis of FDB.
Your flexor digitorum brevis or FDB has two jobs. 1. Prevents lowering of the arch 2. Helps with propulsion when you walk or run.
Plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia. Your plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes and is responsible for supporting the arch of your foot. When the plantar fascia becomes irritated or inflamed, it can lead to a stabbing, burning, or aching pain in the heel.
Note: Not all hell pain is automatically caused by plantar fasciitis or a heel spur. There are many causes of heel pain. Though heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are often seen together.
This is why it is so important that if you have been dealing with heel pain that has not been improving, to should see a foot doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan that is right for you. The longer that you have pain, the harder it is for your body to get rid of it.
Heel Spur vs. Plantar Fasciitis: The Similarities
Both heel spurs and plantar fasciitis have certain things in common. They include:
1. Location of Pain
One of the main similarities between a heel spur vs plantar fasciitis is where the pain is located. In both cases, the pain is at the bottom of the heel, or slightly in front of the bottom of the heel. Because of the location of the pain, knowing the difference between a heel spur and plantar fasciitis can be difficult.
2. Common Risk Factors
There are several shared risk factors for both heel spurs and plantar fasciitis. They include:
Age: Both heel spurs and plantar fasciitis are more common in people between 40 and 60 years old. Though many adults at any age can experience a heel spur or plantar fasciitis.
Obesity: Excess weight puts can put added stress on the plantar fascia and can put you at higher risk of plantar fasciitis. The added stress of the flexor digitorum brevis can also increase your risk of a heel spur
Inactivity: Having a sedentary lifestyle or being inactive for years can make you more prone to developing plantar fasciitis or a heel spur due to weakness or deconditioning of your foot muscles, tendons, and ligaments over time.
Occupation: Jobs that require hours standing or walking, especially on unforgiving surfaces like concrete can also increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis or a heel spur.
Heel Spur vs. Plantar Fasciitis: The Differences
Now that we've covered the similarities, let's explore the differences between heel spurs and plantar fasciitis:
1. Root Cause
Heel Spurs: These are caused by the long-term strain on your heel bone by the flexor digitorum brevis muscle. This causes new calcium deposits on the heel bone and the spur formation
Plantar Fasciitis: This is due to inflammation of the plantar fascia at its insertion on the bottom of your heel bone.
2. How they look
Heel Spurs: A heel spur can be seen in many different images including x-ray, ultrasound, and MRI.
Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis can not be seen on x-ray. But can be seen on MRI or ultrasound.
3. Type of Pain
Heel Spurs: These bony growths usually alone are not painful.
Plantar Fasciitis: The pain of plantar fasciitis is often at its worst after periods of rest or inactivity during the day, such as the first steps in the morning after getting out of bed, or after sitting for an extended period.
The plantar fascia can become re-injured from microtrauma after these times of being inactive. These first few steps can be excruciating, but usually, the pain will become less intense as you continue to move.
Treatment Options for a Heel Spur vs Plantar Fasciitis
Heel Spurs: Treating the underlying cause of the heel spur formation, including exercises to strengthen your foot can help with any pain associated with a heel spur.
Plantar Fasciitis: The primary goal of treatment for plantar fasciitis is to lower inflammation, therefore relieving pain, and promoting healing.
Knowing if you have a heel spur vs plantar fasciitis can be at times frustrating because they can appear together, but have very different root causes. Again, it is important to remember that there are many causes of heel pain. If you have been dealing with heel pain that has not been improving, see a foot doctor to get a correct diagnosis and treatment plan for you.
Schedule Your Appointment At Direct Podiatry Arizona Today
Have you been dealing with heel pain, and are you in the Phoenix area? My name is Dr. Tarr, and I am the owner of Direct Podiatry Arizona in Tempe. To view my available appointment times for a free 15-minute consultation, click here.