Often times, patients – and even some doctors – use heel spurs and plantar fasciitis interchangeably. While they are related diagnoses, they are not the same and can occur independently of one another.
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is the tissue that forms the arch of the foot. Heel spurs are a hook of bone that can form on the heel bone (calcaneus) where the plantar fascia is attached to the heel bone.
Approximately 70% of patients with plantar fasciitis have a heel spur which is visible on x-ray. On the other hand, there are many patients without any painful symptoms that are found to have a heel spur. How this occurs and the relationship between the two conditions is not fully understood.
Heel spurs are common in patients with a history of plantar fasciitis. Most often, the condition is seen in middle-aged men and women. The heel spur itself is not usually the cause of pain – in actuality it is the inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia that is the primary problem.
Heel spurs tend to occur in some patients who have had plantar fasciitis who have had the problem for a prolonged period of time. As previously stated, while about 70 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis have a heel spur, 50 percent of patients with no symptoms of plantar fasciitis also are found to have a heel spur.