If you’ve ever had plantar fasciitis — or simply put a lot of stress on your feet — you might be all too familiar with heel spurs. While these bony growths are your body’s way of reinforcing vulnerable areas, they can sometimes become a serious source of pain in your daily life.
But here’s the good news: the discomfort that comes with heel spurs often stems from inflammation rather than the growth itself. For this reason, certain remedies can help soothe your pain and get you back on your feet — without you needing to worry about surgery or other invasive treatments.
Read on for the best ways to find heel spur relief, from exercises to massage and more.
What Is a Heel Spur?
Otherwise known as calcaneal spurs, heel spurs are pointy calcium deposits that form on the underside of the heel. They are pretty small — often just a few millimeters in length — but can grow to be as big as half an inch long.
An estimated fifteen percent of people have heel spurs, but they don’t always experience pain because of them. In addition, these bony growths often occur hand-in-hand with plantar fasciitis, a condition affecting the band of tissue that runs along the arch of the foot.
Causes of Heel Spurs
The biggest culprit behind heel spurs is long-term strain on the foot muscles and ligaments. For example, repetitive stress on the plantar fascia — a ligament that connects directly to the heel bone — can play a key role in bone spurs forming.
But why do heel spurs form in response to stress and strain?
Essentially, your body builds calcium deposits to strengthen and protect bones from repetitive stress. This is why people with specific habits, conditions, and lifestyle factors may be more prone to heel spurs than others.
Some of the most common risk factors for heel spurs include:
- Gait (walking) abnormalities, which can impact the plantar fascia and heel.
- Being an avid runner, since the high impact of running can also put your heels under excess stress.
- Having extra weight, which can put additional pressure on the tendons and ligaments in the feet.
- Wearing poorly-fitting shoes that don’t offer proper arch support.
- Getting older. One 2008 study from the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research found that 55% of people 62 and older had heel spurs (compared to around 15% of the general public).
How Are Heel Spurs Diagnosed?
Many people with heel spurs won’t ever know that they have them. But if you visit your doctor for heel pain, they may be able to identify a spur after ordering an X-ray.
When you visit a doctor for heel spurs, they probably won’t recommend surgically removing the bone growth.
Instead, they may talk with you about various remedies you can try to keep inflammation and pain at bay. And since heel spur pain is often linked to the plantar fascia, they may recommend treatments that overlap with those you’d see with plantar fasciitis.
So, what can you do aside from resting or changing your daily activities? A few common treatment options include:
- Non-surgical remedies like night splints, cold compresses, etc.
- Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medicine
- Physical therapy to strengthen, loosen, and relax the plantar fascia and calf muscles
There are also other, rarer treatment options for bone spurs — although they may not be right for everyone. These include steroid injections, surgeries, and more.
Ultimately, everyone’s heel spur treatment can look different, and it’s best to check with your doctor to get a plan based on your individual needs.
5 Remedies for Heel Spur Relief
Since you’re here, you probably have firsthand experience with how bothersome heel spurs can be. Fortunately, certain home remedies can help soothe your feet, alleviate pain, and make a world of difference in your comfort level.
Here are five of the best heel spur remedies to try today:
1. Cold Therapy
Cold therapy works by reducing swelling and providing a mild numbing effect on aches and pains — making it a great short-term remedy for heel spurs.
Whenever your pain flares up, simply grab an ice pack, cold compress, or even a bag of frozen veggies. Then, apply it to the foot for a few minutes.
Tip: You can also try a “cold therapy foot massage” by freezing a water bottle and rolling your foot over it, just like you would with a regular massage ball.
2. Footwear Adjustments
If you’re up on your feet all day, it’s essential to opt for footwear that supports your foot’s arch. By choosing shoes with ample cushioning, you can help reduce the shock that might otherwise strain your heel while you walk or run.
Aside from investing in heel-friendly shoes, you can boost your foot support by:
- Using silicone heel pads
- Trying orthopedic inserts
- Switching to specific athletic footwear during high-impact activities like hiking or running
3. Modify Your Activities & Let Your Feet Rest
Rest can be your best first step to feeling better when you have heel spur pain. Be sure to take breaks after long periods of standing, and avoid putting too much weight on the affected heel.
Beyond that, modifying your daily activities can go a long way in reducing your pain. For example, if your workout routine revolves around high-impact activities (like running or jumping), it can help to swap in some low-impact exercises at least part of the time.
Small changes like these can reduce the amount of strain on your heels, ultimately helping your recovery process go a little more smoothly.
4. Stretches and Exercises for Heel Spur Relief
Stretching and strengthening exercises can boost flexibility and offer relief from heel pain. Plus, they can help your feet function optimally — even after your pain subsides.
But here’s another surprising reason why stretching can be worth a try: Research suggests that there may be a link between tight calf muscles and heel pain. One 2018 study found that 80% of patients with plantar fasciitis pain had tight gastrocnemius muscles, compared to just 20% in those without foot and ankle issues.
Be sure to check with your doctor before adding any new exercises to your heel spur regimen. Once you’ve got the green light, here are a few options that can help you strengthen, relax, and restore your feet:
Standing Calf Stretch
The standing calf stretch is an easy, go-to exercise you can use to relieve lower leg tightness. To do it:
- Stand about one foot away from a sturdy wall.
- Extend both arms out in front of you, placing your palms flat against the wall.
- Step back with your right foot.
- Straighten your right leg and slowly bend the left leg forward until you feel a stretch in the right calf.
- Hold for up to 20 seconds, and gently release.
- Do the stretch 2 to 3 times, and repeat with the opposite leg.
Toe Extension (Seated Plantar Fascia Stretch)
The seated toe extension is a simple movement that can help stretch the plantar fascia and improve overall foot mobility. To try it:
- Begin by sitting in a comfortable position.
- Bend your affected leg over your opposite knee so that you can easily access your toes.
- Grab your toes and pull them toward your shin until you feel a gentle stretch in the bottom of your foot. Optionally, you can also glide your fingers along the arch of your foot for a light-pressure massage.
- Hold for 10 seconds, and release.
- Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.
Seated Towel Scrunches
Towel scrunches (aka towel curls) are a deceptively simple exercise that can help boost your all-around heel health.
This movement involves flexing many parts of the feet — meaning it can help promote strength and flexibility around the arch, plantar fascia, and heel.
Here’s how to try it:
- Have a seat in a comfortable chair.
- Place a small towel on the floor in front of you. (It’s best to do this exercise on a smooth, hard surface, since it allows the towel to glide more easily.)
- Rest your foot on the towel so that there are a few inches of excess fabric in front of your toes.
- Use your toes to scrunch the towel in towards you.
- Repeat for ten reps.
Standing Calf Raises
Calf raises are a surprisingly useful exercise for strengthening the lower legs and plantar fascia.
Note: If you decide to include these in your routine, be sure to stick to doing them every other day, as opposed to every day. This way, your muscles will have ample time to recover in between sessions.
Here’s how to get started:
- Stand near an object that you can use for balance, such as a wall or kitchen chair.
- Use your feet and leg strength to push off the ground and raise your heels in the air. While you do this, you should feel your calf muscles engage.
- Hold for three seconds, and lower your heels back to the ground.
- Repeat for 2 to 3 reps of 15 to 20 reps.
Foot and Calf Massage for Heel Spurs
If you’re noticing foot muscle tension due to heel spurs, a soothing massage can be a powerful remedy to try. In fact, one 2018 study found that soft tissue mobilization (a type of medical massage usually administered by physical therapists) was helpful in reducing plantar heel pain.
What’s even better is that massage is generally safe, simple, and easy to try at home. Of course, it’s always important to stay mindful of your body’s signals, avoid painful pressure, and check with your doctor before getting started.
Once you’re ready to add massage to your routine, here are four techniques to try for relief:
Try a Hands-On Foot Massage
A hands-on foot massage is one of the most convenient at-home remedies for heel spurs. It requires no tools and just a few minutes for you to start feeling the benefits. Simply:
- Start by sitting on a comfortable chair or couch.
- Cross your affected leg up over your knee, so you can easily massage your foot.
- Use your thumbs to gently glide up and along the arch of the foot for 20 to 30 seconds. (Feel free to use a few drops of oil or lotion here.)
- Then, use your thumbs to pull the muscle outward from the center. Start from the ball of your foot and gently make your way toward the heel.
- Tip: If you notice an especially tender spot, it’s best to work around it instead of directly on it. This way, you can avoid aggravating any sensitive areas.
- Continue to massage for 5 to 10 minutes, up to a few times per day.
Use an Oscillating Massager
An oscillating device like the MedMassager MMF07 foot massager can deliver gentle, restorative massage to sore and tired feet. Here’s how to use it:
- Start your massager on a light setting.
- Gently place your feet on the vibrating surface.
- Allow the device to warm up the feet muscles for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Then, gradually increase the pressure to whatever level feels best to you.
- Enjoy the massage for 5 to 10 minutes, up to several times per day.
Foam Roll the Calves and Feet
Another powerful recovery tool, foam rolling is a great way to massage the lower legs and feet in the comfort of your home.
If you’ve got one on hand, here’s one exercise to try for heel spur relief:
- Sit on the floor and rest your calf on top of the foam roller.
- Use your upper body strength and unaffected leg to lift yourself away from the ground, with your affected calf still on the roller.
- Start the massage by rolling forward and backward with moderate pressure for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Then, have a seat upright in a chair, and place the roller under your foot. Using light-to-moderate pressure, roll along the arch for 30 seconds.
- Optionally, you can finish this massage with a stretch. To do so, stand with your toes on the foam roller and your heel planted on the ground. Then, lean forward to feel a deep stretch in your calf and plantar fascia.
Try a Simple Tennis Ball Massage
A tennis ball massage is another easy-to-use and relaxing remedy for heel spur relief. It works by kneading away tension in the foot’s arch — and, in turn, alleviating strain that may be affecting your heel.
To try it:
- Place the tennis or massage ball under your foot.
- Use moderate pressure to mindfully roll the ball along your foot’s arch for 30 to 60 seconds. (Note: Be sure to roll the foot in ways that feel soothing to you. Avoid anything that causes discomfort or pain, and stop if you hit an area that feels especially tender.)
Heel Spur Prevention Tips
Unfortunately, not everything is within our control when it comes to heel spurs — such as age, genetics, and underlying conditions. But the good news is that there are steps you can take to protect your feet and heel health in the future.
When it comes to heel spur prevention, here are some tips that can make a difference:
- Stay mindful of your gait, and avoid stomping on your heels when you step.
- If you enjoy jogging outside, opt for softer surfaces (like a grassy field or sandy beach) as opposed to pavement.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Invest in proper foot protection.
- Use regular, low-impact exercises to strengthen and stretch the calves and feet.
Remedies for Heel Spur Relief: The Bottom Line
While heel spurs typically aren’t painful, they can occasionally come with discomfort that gets in the way of your day-to-day life. The good news is that this pain often resolves with the help of natural, noninvasive treatments and lifestyle adjustments.
To soothe heel pain, you can try light exercises, stretching, massage, and switching to more supportive footwear. And when you could use a little extra TLC, you can try modifying your daily activities, resting, or even applying a cold water bottle to the bottom of your foot.
On a final note, be sure to check with your healthcare team if you notice heel spur pain that disrupts your quality of life. With their help, you can get on track to finding an individualized treatment plan that brings you long-term relief.
Therapeutic Foot Massage At Home
Ready to make restorative foot massage a regular part of your recovery routine? The tools from MedMassager can help.