By Noelle Ihli, medically reviewed by Dr. Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

Plantar Fasciitis vs. Heel SpursPlantar fasciitis and heel spurs are two different but closely connected conditions that lead to chronic or intermittent pain in your feet and heels.

Knowing the difference between the two, and also how they’re related to one another, can help you determine which one you’re suffering from, set a course for treatment, and reduce symptoms of pain and discomfort.

Knowledge is power when it comes to managing, treating and beating your heel and foot pain.

Keep reading below to arm yourself with knowledge and get back on your feet–comfortably!

What’s the Difference Between Heel Spurs and Plantar Fasciitis?

The main difference between plantar fasciitis and heel spurs lies in the source of the pain. Pain from plantar fasciitis is typically felt in the arch of the foot and the heel due to damage or overuse of the plantar fascia. Heel spurs, or tiny jagged calcium deposits on the heel bone, develop in response to the trauma to the plantar fascia and are localized to the heel.

Plantar fasciitis inserts

Causes of Heel Spurs vs. Plantar Fasciitis

Think of heel spurs and plantar fasciitis as a one-two punch. Plantar fasciitis is caused by stress and damage to the plantar fascia ligament, the area between the ball of your foot and the heel on the underside of your foot. This stress can be caused by carrying extra weight, wearing worn or unsupportive footwear, trauma to the foot, or spending an excessive amount of time on your feet.

Heel spurs develop as a secondary result of plantar fasciitis. When the plantar fascia ligament is damaged, the body creates what’s known as heel spurs–small, sharp calcium deposits on the heel bone–in an attempt to support the damaged fascia. Unfortunately, if left untreated, heel spurs can further damage and erode the fatty pad that supports your heel and do permanent damage to your foot.

Symptoms of Heel Spurs vs. Plantar Fasciitis

The simplest way to describe heel spurs is a stabbing sensation in your heel(s)–which makes sense, because that’s exactly what happens. The sharp calcium deposits building up on your heel bone are literally stabbing into the fatty pad of your heel. You’ll likely notice that the pain is worst first thing in the morning, and can come and go throughout the day.

Plantar fasciitis on the other hand encompasses a broader range of symptoms localized in the foot and heel area. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis may be present for some time before you feel the stabbing sensation of heel spurs, since untreated plantar fasciitis and a strained or damaged fascia are the primary causes of heel spurs.

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include redness, swelling and inflammation in the heel and fascia (the area between the ball of your foot and your heel). You’ll likely experience sharp pain that’s worse in the morning and may get better as the fascia are stretched throughout the day. An aching, burning pain in the heel is the hallmark of plantar fasciitis.

Treatments for Heel Spurs vs. Plantar Fasciitis

Treating plantar fasciitis (which can lead to heel spurs if left untreated) quickly is key to avoiding additional damage. Give your feet rest breaks during the day if you’re spending a lot of time on your feet, and dial down the exercise routine if necessary. It’s also important to ice your feet to reduce inflammation (these Ice Pack Therapy Slippers strap onto the foot and stay in place with velcro, giving you targeted relief for inflammation).

For both plantar fasciitis and heel spurs, it’s critical to wear shoes that have a thick cushioned sole and aren’t worn out at the heel. It’s also important to maintain a healthy weight to avoid adding additional strain to the plantar fascia and heel. One of the best ways you can treat both plantar fasciitis and heel spurs is to use affordable orthotic inserts. They’re effective in greatly reducing or eliminating pain for 90 percent of customers, they only cost about the same amount as a lunch out on the town, and are a great alternative to costly, heavy orthotic shoes or more drastic (and typically unnecessary) surgery. Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis can sound intimidating–and feel even worse. But with a few ounces of prevention and consistent, proven remedies, you’ll be feeling better in no time.