Contracted heels

Veterinary advice should be sought before applying any treatment or vaccine.

Contracted Heels

Contacted Foot

Contracted heels is a condition in which the inner and outer buttresses of the foot becomes narrower than normal, with potential atrophy of the frog. It usually occurs in the front feet, but can also affect the back feet of the horse. A horse's foot is considered contracted if the frog width is less than two-thirds the frog length.

The condition occurs in horses of all ages. In younger horses, it can be congenital or acquired. Horses can develop contacted heels as a result of genetics or through environmental or managerial factors such as long term stall rest, insufficient exercise, excessive moisture, disproportionate load balance on the frog and heel, and the result of improper shoeing. If the farrier removes the frog during each hoot trimming, the lack of frog pressure can cause contracted heels. Horses having long toe/low heels or overgrown hooves can also cause contracted heels. Long toes decrease the expansion of the hoof when the foot hits the ground, which causes the heels to contract.


Narrowing of heel
Shortened stride
Frog atrophies
Occurring in forelegs


  • Lameness exam
  • Radiographs
  • Nuclear scintigraphy
  • Ultrasonography
  • MRI



Soaking the feet in water daily for 10 to 14 days followed by corrective shoeing. Hoof-moisturizing products that contain oils or waxy substances should be used with caution because they can keep water out of the hoof. Slipper shoes with no more than 3 nails in each branch promote hoof expansion. Quarter clips and the fourth shoe nail must be avoided. Your veterinarian can thin the wall of the quarters or groove the walls parallel to the coronet to aid in expanding the heels. As the quarters grow out, the procedure may need to be repeated until the heels and quarters are expanded normally


Scientific Research

General Overviews

Risk Factors

  • Genetics
  • Shrinkage due to moisture deficiency in the hoof wall
  • History of long term stall rest
  • Abnormal foot conformation