A heel spur and plantar fasciitis are two common afflictions of the foot that are often linked. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammatory condition of the plantar fascia, tissue that crosses the bottom of the foot from the heel to the ball. A heel spur is a bony outgrowth on the heel bone, or calcaneus. While this growth can appear on more than one site on the calcaneus, it is most common on the back of the heel beneath the ankle and on the underside of the bone where it strikes the ground. It is thought that the plantar fasciitis often leads to heel spurs, and not the other way around.
Resulting from excessive weight bearing, whether from obesity or frequent athletic activity, plantar fasciitis is a common condition affecting millions of individuals. It is characterized by inflammatory pain on the underside of the foot, particularly beneath the heel, as the tissue wears against the bone. Additional symptoms include pain and stiffness first thing in the morning, making walking difficult upon getting out of bed, and trouble bending the foot upward toward the shin. When a heel spur and plantar fasciitis occur together, this pain can be greatly intensified, especially when placing weight upon the heel.
A heel spur, or osteophyte, is a small calcification of bone on the calcaneus resembling a hooked outgrowth. It can be found on the posterior aspect of the heel at the insertion of the Achilles tendon or on the underside of the bone toward its front edge. An inferior heel spur is a common accompaniment to plantar fasciitis. The inferior heel spur can be seen on an X-ray just above the plantar fascia, which is one indicator that the heel spur and plantar fasciitis are connected.
Bone spurs are known to be caused by various kinds of structural changes to the anatomy at the site of the spur. In the case of the link between the inferior heel spur and plantar fasciitis, the wearing of the tissue at the site, and the friction such wear may inflict on the bone, is the likely cause of the spur. The spur appears between the upper surface of the plantar fascia and the inferior surface of the calcaneus on the underside of the heel.