10 Heel Spur Exercises to Try at Home

Heel spurs, also called osteophytes, are bumps of extra bone that grow on your calcaneus (heel bone). Heel spurs can be easily diagnosed with an X-ray. Even though one in 10 people have heel spurs, only 5% of people with this condition experience pain. However, heel spurs can develop from other very painful conditions that put pressure on your heel bone, such as plantar fasciitis or arthritis.

Heel spurs can be painful to the touch, and often cause pain when you step on the affected foot. Your heel might also be warm, red, and swollen. Exercises can increase flexibility in the bottom of your foot and help decrease pain caused by bone spurs.

This article discusses exercises for painful bone spurs, as well as other treatments.

Jogger holding painful foot

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Exercises for Heel Spurs

Exercises won't make your heel spurs go away, but they can increase flexibility in your plantar fascia (the connective tissue stretching from your heel to your toes) and strengthen the muscles in your foot to decrease inflammation and pain.

  • Big toe stretch: Cross your affected leg over the opposite leg. Gently grab your big toe between your thumb and your index finger. Slowly pull it upward until you feel a stretch in the bottom of your foot. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat.
  • Calf stretch against the wall: Stand facing a wall. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Step your injured foot back about 18 inches. Keeping your knee straight, place your heel flat on the ground. Bend your front knee. Slowly lean forward over your front knee until you feel a stretch along your back calf.
  • Squat calf stretch against the wall: Stand facing a wall. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Step your injured foot back about 18 inches. Bend both knees slightly and place your back heel flat on the ground. Slowly lean forward over your front knee until you feel a stretch along your back calf.
  • Calf stretch on step: Stand facing the stairs with the balls of your feet on the bottom step. Keeping your knee straight, slowly lower your heel until you feel a stretch along your calf.
  • Seated calf stretch with a towel: Sit with your leg stretched out straight. Wrap the towel around the ball of your foot, holding one end of the towel in each hand. Slowly pull the towel toward you until you feel a stretch along the bottom of your foot and your calf.
  • Downward dog pedals: Begin on your hands and knees, with your hands in line with your shoulders and knees in line with your hips. Push down through your palms and straighten your knees. Pedal your feet one at a time. Bend one knee while pushing through your heel on the opposite leg to stretch your calf. Alternate back and forth several times.
  • Foam roll calf: Sit with your leg straight out in front of you. Place the roller under the calf on your painful side. Bend your opposite knee and place your foot on the ground with your hands on the ground behind you. Push down through your hands and lift your hips off the ground. Roll along the length of your calf several times.
  • Golf ball foot roll: Sit in a chair and place a golf ball under your bare foot. Push down slowly to apply pressure to the ball. Roll it from the ball of your foot to your heel for several minutes. For additional pain relief, place the golf ball in the freezer before you roll it on your foot.
  • Towel grab with toes: Sit in a chair and spread a small towel out on the ground in front of your foot. Place your heel on the closest end of the towel. Grab the towel with your toes and scrunch it toward you. Continue until you reach the other end of the towel. Repeat three times.
  • Plantar flexion with resistance band: Sit with your leg straight out in front of you. Loop a resistance band around the ball of your foot, holding one end in each hand. Push your foot into the band, as if you are pressing a gas pedal. Repeat 10 times, working up to three sets in a row.

Other Treatments for Heel Spurs

In addition to exercise, there are several other treatments available for pain caused by heel spurs. These include:

  • Inserts: Shoe inserts called orthotics can provide support for your feet and relieve pressure on your heel spurs. Inserts that raise your heel slightly can significantly reduce heel pain while walking and standing.
  • Night splint: Heel spurs that are caused by plantar fasciitis can cause significant heel pain first thing in the morning. When you first step on your foot, the structures on the bottom of your foot are stretched out, causing pain. Night splints hold your ankle and foot in a position that keeps these structures stretched out while you sleep.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter medications such as Aleve (naproxen), Advil (ibuprofen), and Bayer (aspirin) are often used to decrease pain and inflammation caused by bone spurs.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist will assess the underlying cause of your bone spurs and provide specific instructions for treatment. Your therapist can also recommend proper footwear based on your foot structure and activities.
  • Steroid injection: Cortisone is sometimes injected to treat inflammation and pain caused by bone spurs. However, you typically can't have more than a few injections in the same area, spread out over time—too much steroid medication can cause permanent damage to your plantar fascia.
  • Shock wave therapy: Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) can be effective for treating plantar fasciitis that often occurs with bone spurs.
  • Surgery: If conservative treatments aren't successful, heel spurs can be removed with surgery.

Summary

Heel spurs are bumps of extra bone growth on the calcaneus, or heel bone. Bone spurs don't always cause pain, but they are often associated with other painful conditions such as plantar fasciitis and arthritis. Stretches and strengthening exercises can help decrease symptoms of heel spurs. Other treatments include physical therapy, medications, and in severe cases, surgery.

A Word From Verywell

Pain and inflammation from heel spurs can get progressively worse, and eventually make daily activities difficult—or even impossible. Addressing your symptoms quickly will improve your chances of a full recovery. With proper treatment, the overwhelming majority of people with pain from heel spurs recover without the need for surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take for a heel spur to go away?

    Bone spurs don't "go away" unless you have surgery. However, pain and inflammation caused by heel spurs can start to improve within a few weeks with proper treatment.

  • What happens if a heel spur is left untreated?

    If you don't seek treatment, pain caused by a heel spur can make it difficult for you to walk on your affected foot.

  • Is heat or ice better for heel spurs?

    Heat and ice are both beneficial for symptoms of heel spurs. Use heat to increase blood flow before you perform your stretches. Apply ice after activity to decrease pain in your heel.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Sierra Pacific Orthopedics. Plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.

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