6 Exercises to Treat Heel Spurs

Given how painful heel spurs can be, consult your doctor if yours continues to get worse despite doing these exercises.
6 Exercises to Treat Heel Spurs
Angie Paola Pardo Ramos

Written and verified by the physiotherapist Angie Paola Pardo Ramos.

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Heel spurs are a bone outgrowth that grows on the calcaneus or the heel bone, according to this study from the Leon Cuervo Rubio Hospital in Pinar del Rio in Cuba. This can cause pain when walking or doing other activities.
The sharp pain is in the inner lower part of the foot, and it’s more painful during the morning. The pain goes away with rest and comes back with activity. It also can lead to limited ankle dorsiflexion.

Fortunately, there are several stretching exercises that can prove to be very useful for relieving the pain and helping with healing. If you still have a lot of pain after a few days, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

What causes heel spurs?

According to this study from the University of Orleans (France), one out of every four people suffers from heel spurs. Here are some of the common factors:

  • Age: Age can be a trigger, but it’s not the only one.
  • Being overweight: Obese people that spend many hours on their feet can be more susceptible to this developing this condition.
  • Intense workouts: Intense workouts can sometimes lead to this pain.
  • Flat feet: The shape of the foot can be a risk for developing this condition if there is a lack of flexibility of the Achilles tendon.
  • Improper footwear: Using thin-soled shoes or high heels (especially ones with thin, high heels) can lead to a heel spur.

Fortunately, there are a number of exercises and stretching movements you can do to relieve the symptoms of heel spurs. You can do them at home, they usually lead to good results.

1. Towel exercise

Heel spurs

This is the best exercise for treating this condition. To do it correctly, follow these steps:

  • For this exercise, all we’ll need to do is to place a towel on the floor and try to grab it and bring it closer by using the toes.
  • You can add a little bit of weight on top of the towel to add more resistance.

2. Belt exercise

This exercise is a great option not only for heel spurs but for other problems that can appear in the foot as well.

  • Sit on the floor, straightening your back and extending your legs out in front of you.
  • Place a belt at the bottom of your foot, grabbing one of the ends in each hand.
  • After, you should pull the belt towards you, while you push the belt with your foot in the opposite direction at the same time.
  • Hold the position for about 20 seconds.
  • Do a set of 25 reps, 2 to 3 times a day.

3. Ball and sole of the foot exercise

This exercise consists of rolling a small ball with the sole of your foot. It’s helpful for this condition as well as for Plantar Fasciitis. 

  • Roll the ball under your foot. By doing so, you can massage it and relax the sole.
  • To finish this exercise, press on the ball, rolling it to the tips of your toes all the way to your heel.

Also read: 5 Remedies to Heal Achilles Heel Tendonitis

4. Water bottle roll

You’ll need to freeze a bottle of water for this exercise. Then, do the following:

  • Place the bottle on the ground, covering it with a towel and step on it.
  • Roll the water bottle with the sole of your foot for at least 5 minutes.
  • Repeat at least 3 times a day.

This stretching exercise will help you relieve pain. In addition, the cold acts as a local anesthetic. 

5. Calf stretches

Calf stretches

This is a simple exercise where you’ll only need to lean on a wall or a table with your hands. Bend one leg while you stretch the other.

  • Lean forward, as if you were going to move the table, in order to stretch the calf muscles of the extended leg. 
  • Hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds.

6. Seated exercise

This movement is one of the most comfortable to do. You must be seated in a chair with a backrest and remove the shoe from your affected foot.

  • Firstly, place the affected foot on the upper part of the calf of your healthy foot. The idea here is for your toes to simulate hugging the front part of your calf.
  • Then, slide the foot up and down along the calf for a few minutes.
  • The purpose of this exercise is to relax the muscles surrounding the spur to relieve pain. You can do it every day 2 to 3 times a day.

Tips for reducing the pain from heel spurs

  • Cut down on sport activity as much as possible and try to rest all that you can.
  • A study from Las Condes Clinic in Chile suggests that using proper footwear can reduce heel inflammation as well as pain and injury. Comfortable, cushioned shoes with a flexible sole make for the best choice. Look for a slight elevation, as well, in order to fit the foot properly.
  • Use insoles or cushions to lessen the impact from walking.
  • Apply ice or freezer packs three times a day for 15 minutes; they’re great for relieving pain.
  • Starting a diet to lose some weight is highly recommended if you are overweight.
  • Being overweight is one of the main causes of heel spurs so losing weight won’t only help reduce your heel spur symptoms, but improve your overall health.

Definitive treatment of heel spurs

In some cases, the aforementioned exercises aren’t enough to reduce the pain of a heel spur. Thus, the definitive treatment in advanced stages will be surgery to remove the bony malformation.

However, most people undergo physical therapy. The therapy initially involves changes in footwear, lifestyle and body weight. However, the following techniques may be necessary in people withstanding a lot of pain:

  • Diathermy
  • Therapeutic percutaneous electrolysis
  • Diacutaneous fibrolysis
  • Percutaneous neuromodulation

Consult your doctor

This article is intended to be informative. So, consult your doctor who can diagnose your problem and offer you a personalized treatment if no exercise improves your heel spur and your discomfort continues.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Carreño, F. B. & Carcuro, G. U. (2012). Corredores: Bases científicas para la elección de calzado y prevención de lesiones. Revista Médica Clínica Las Condes. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0716-8640(12)70318-8
  • Johal, K. S., & Milner, S. A. (2012). Plantar fasciitis and the calcaneal spur: Fact or fiction? Foot and Ankle Surgery. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fas.2011.03.003
  • Menz, H. B., Zammit, G. V., Landorf, K. B., & Munteanu, S. E. (2008). Plantar calcaneal spurs in older people: Longitudinal traction or vertical compression? Journal of Foot and Ankle Research. https://doi.org/10.1186/1757-1146-1-7
  • Toumi, H., Davies, R., Mazor, M., Coursier, R., Best, T. M., Jennane, R., & Lespessailles, E. (2014). Changes in prevalence of calcaneal spurs in men & women: a random population from a trauma clinic. BMC musculoskeletal disorders15, 87. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2474-15-87
  • Weiss E. (2012). Calcaneal spurs: examining etiology using prehistoric skeletal remains to understand present day heel pain. Foot (Edinburgh, Scotland)22(3), 125–129. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foot.2012.04.003
  • Zhou, B., Zhou, Y., Tao, X., Yuan, C., & Tang, K. (2015). Classification of Calcaneal Spurs and Their Relationship With Plantar Fasciitis. The Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery : Official Publication of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.jfas.2014.11.009

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.