September 06, 2013
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On running: Foot aches a painful reminder

Written by
Vicki Huber Rudawsky
On Running

August 21, 2013.

For most of my running career, my feet have hurt. I have a high arch and a rigid foot. I was a toe runner for most of my career, and I do not tolerate orthotics very well. I am well-acquainted with plantar fascitis, and through the years, I have learned how to stay on top of my foot issues and, for the most part, avoid injury.

Lately, however, my right foot has been killing me. True, I spent all summer running with our daughter, and as much as I loved every second of the time with her, she really made me run hard. The faster-than-usual pace definitely stressed my foot. But every time my husband worked on my foot, he said that my plantar fascia felt good.

I wondered how I could be in pain, yet have my fascia feel fine – until I remembered that I have a bone spur.

A bone spur is a bony projection that can form on any bony area where extra pressure or rubbing occurs. Bone spurs can develop on the hips, shoulders, spine, hands, knees, feet and heel. What I have is a calcaneal spur, which means I have developed extra bone on the heel of my foot.

A bone spur forms for several reasons, but basically it develops as a response to continued stress, rubbing or pulling. Especially with runners and dancers, the plantar fascia can become stressed and tight, pulling on the heel bone. This causes the body to respond by having the heel bone try to mend itself by forming more bone, which then becomes the spur.

Essentially, the inflammation from a tight plantar fascia stimulates the formation of new bone.

Some believe spurs occur as part of the aging process, which makes sense when you think of all the stress, rubbing, pulling and pressure we put our bodies through over the years.

Most bone spurs do not cause symptoms. In fact, I learned of my heel spur only because I had an X-ray taken for another issue. However, if there is repeated pressure on the bone or tissue, there may be swelling, tenderness or pain.

Spurs on the foot can cause calluses and corns when tissue builds up to provide protection from the spur.

The initial treatment of a bone spur is directed to the cause of the spur. For example, if a spur is thought to have developed because of being overweight, then the first course of action would be to reduce pressure on the bony area by losing weight. For people with heel spurs, typically the plantar fascia would be treated first with massage, stretching and even ultrasound. By healing the plantar fascia, the trauma to the heel bone would be reduced.

Rest, ice and antiinflammatories also are used in the initial treatment of spurs. For the feet, changing shoes may help, as well as adding padding or a heel cup – especially for those who stand all day.

If these treatments do not work, the next step may be a corticosteroid injection at the site to reduce pain and inflammation. And finally, bone spurs can be surgically removed if they are causing considerable damage or deformity.

As with any health issue, the best thing would be to contact your doctor before even trying to self-diagnose. A podiatrist would be able to help you with any questions involving your feet and ankles and would have all the information you need as to your options for dealing with foot pain.

I can run with the discomfort in my foot as long as I know that I am not injuring myself more. I have good days and not so good days, but the trick is to learn your limits and not to push past them.

I guess that’s what it means when they say it’s all part of the aging process.

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