What is a Bone Spur?
A bone spur, as the name implies, is an extra bony prominence that grows off of a regular bone. It can occur anywhere in the body but tends to be more noticeable in the feet. Because the feet are a very bony part of the body, there is little soft tissue to pad and hide the spur. As a result, a relatively small spur that might go unnoticed elsewhere in the body becomes prominent and/or painful in the foot. Bone spurs tend to occur around joints, and with 25% of our bones located in the feet, it is no wonder the feet are a common location for spurs.
Where do Bone Spurs Occur?
Bone spurs in the feet can occur just about anywhere but there are a handful of relatively common sites.
- Heel spurs – Heel spurs come in two forms, the back of the heel and the bottom of the heel. Heel spurs on the bottom of the heel are more appropriately termed plantar fasciitis and should be treated as such. Heel spurs at the back of the heel are true spurs and often present as prominent, painful, red areas where the Achilles tendon inserts. These spurs can be a concern because the chronic inflammation around the Achilles tendon can weaken the tendon and cause the tendon to rupture.
- On the side of the big toe – A spur on the big toe often results in a “pinch callus." This is a thick callus that occurs on the inside of the big toe and is caused by the skin being pinched as the foot moves through the “toe-off” stage of gait. The condition is often associated with a bunion and usually more of a nuisance than painful. This condition is often treated with a good pair of custom molded orthotics to correct pronation.
- Top of the foot over the arch – This spur occurs on the top of the arch and can be painful when shoes press on it. Treatment for this type of spur involves wearing shoes that do not press on the site or applying a pad with a hole cut out to the site. In severe cases the spur is removed.
- Outside of the foot – This callus occurs on the side of the foot midway between the toes and heel where there is a bony prominence called the Styloid process. The area will present as a prominent red area and may have a callus associated with it.
- Under the ball of the foot – One of the most common sites of spurs, this type of spur may be related to a hammertoe on the corresponding toe. Treatment for this type of callus involves padding the area and a well made custom molded orthotic is also very beneficial.
- Between the toes – Most commonly found between the fourth and fifth toes. This spur is usually associated with a hammertoe.
What Can I Do About My Bone Spur?
The goal with spurs is not necessarily to get rid of them but to stop them from hurting. Spurs that become painful on the feet often develop a thick corn or callus. Shaving the corn or callus can provide significant pain relief. There are also many special padding techniques that podiatrists use to off weight the affected area and provide relief. Depending on the type of spur, custom molded orthotics can be an excellent solution. These devices are made to fit in your shoes with special indentations or pads to accommodate the spur.
What Does Surgery Involve in Removing My Bone Spur?
Depending on the type of spur, surgery involves simply cutting it off. In most cases it is a minor outpatient procedure and patients can walk immediately after the surgery in a special shoe. Patients are back in their own shoes in several days or weeks.
While most bone spurs are benign, on a few occasions they may be due to a bone tumor. It is important to visit a podiatrist and have your feet X-rayed to rule out anything more serious.