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What is Heel Surgery?

Heel surgery is a procedure performed to treat heel pain and loss of motion that is caused due to injury, inflammation, and irritation of the foot muscles, bones, or the connective tissue attached to the heel. It is usually the last line of treatment when non-surgical therapies such as anti-inflammatory medications, orthotics, physical therapy, and injections fail to relieve painful symptoms. 

Indications for Heel Surgery

Common conditions that may require heel surgery include:
  • Heel spurs: These are bony outgrowths that are seen under the heels due to calcium deposition from excessive strain and pressure applied on the heel.
  • Plantar fasciitis: In this condition, the connective tissue present under the heels becomes irritated and inflamed causing severe heel pain.
  • Achilles tendonitis: This is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel.
  • Heel fracture: This is a break in the continuity of the calcaneal bone (heel bone).

Preparing for Heel Surgery

Specific instructions will be provided by your surgeon. In general, you should:

  • Stop smoking as it can slow down the healing process.
  • Inform your surgeon about any health conditions, allergies, and regular medications.
  • Avoid eating 8-12 hours prior to the surgery.

Procedure of Heel Surgery

Depending on the condition, open surgery or endoscopic surgery can be done. Your doctor will anesthetize the heel area with local anesthesia. For plantar fasciitis, the surgery involves excision of part of the plantar fascia ligament to reduce the tension and inflammation in the tissue. For painful heel spurs, surgical removal of the heel spurs will be done. For displaced calcaneal fractures, proper alignment of the bone may be performed.  Most heel surgeries may be performed as outpatient procedures, so you can return home on the same day as the procedure. 

Post-operative Care for Heel Surgery 

After the surgery, your doctor will apply a surgical dressing and instruct you to use a walking cast and crutches to reduce the pressure being applied on the heel. Apply cold compression over the surgical area. Try to keep your feet elevated as much as possible and limit weight-bearing activities. Return to routine activities may take 6 weeks after plantar fascia release surgery and 3 months after heel spur removal or calcaneal fracture repair.

Risks and Complications of Heel Surgery

Complications of heel surgery include:

  • Damage to nerves
  • Bleeding
  • Heel pain
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Risk from anesthesia
  • Neuroma (tumor formed from nerve cells)