For those that love to hike, a heel spur can put a definite damper on your plans. These small bony protrusions form on the underside of the heel as a result of calcium deposits. Repeated stress to the area is the likely culprit, which is why they can plague hikers and outdoor enthusiasts that spend a lot of time on their feet. The following can help you avoid bone spurs, as well as provide some relief if you already have them.
Lighten your load
The heavier your pack, the more stress you are putting on your feet. Since many people bear the brunt of their weight on their heels as they walk, a 65-pound pack can provide a lot of stress. Fortunately, outdoor outfitters are on the cutting edge of lightweight gear. Start by paring down the weight of your biggest three burdens – tent, sleeping bag, and pack. You can now find varieties of each that weigh in at less than 2 pounds. From there, finding lightweight alternatives to everything else is a breeze.
Choose the right shoes
You need hiking shoes that properly cup and cushion your heels to help protect them from stress. At the same time, shoes must also provide proper arch support, since unnatural stretching of the ligaments along the bottom of your feet can lead to another condition -- plantar fasciitis. A good rule of thumb is to pick the most comfortable shoes, then increase the padding with shoe inserts. If you already suffer from heel spurs, then ask your podiatrist about having custom inserts created. Heel cups can be especially useful for relieving stress and pain.
Pack a tennis ball
A bit of physical therapy on the trail can release tension in your foot ligaments, which can relieve heel pain and help prevent bone spurs from developing or becoming worse. A simple lightweight tennis ball is all you need. Find a relatively flat area when you take a break and place your foot on top of the ball. Simply roll it back and forth beneath your foot, releasing the tension in the ligament. Repeat for the other foot. Make sure to use a tree or rock to brace yourself when performing this maneuver, since you don't want to fall and injure yourself on the trail.
Heel pain can be quite serious. If it worsens or doesn't go away, meet with a podiatrist like one of those at the Advanced Foot & Ankle Centers of Illinois. Physical therapy and surgical options are also available.