Have you ever felt a nagging, sharp pain in your heel that doesn’t seem to quite go away? When it comes to heel pain, plantar fasciitis is frequently the culprit. Plantar fasciitis can affect just one foot or both of the feet.

What is the plantar fascia?

The flat, thick ligament that extends from the base of the heel to the toes is referred to as the plantar fascia. This ligament provides support for the arch of the foot, acting like a shock-absorbing bowstring. If the plantar fascia becomes strained, small tears may occur in the fascia. If repetitive tearing and stretching occurs, the fascia swells and becomes weak, and causes pain. This condition is referred to as plantar fasciitis.

Causes of plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is an injury commonly associated with running. In general, plantar fasciitis occurs when the feet are not strong enough to deal with the continued pounding they experience. Other issues include excess weight, overtraining, or wearing shoes that don’t provide adequate support. The structure of your foot plays a role in the development of plantar fasciitis as well.

Repeated strains leading to plantar fasciitis are more likely to occur if:

  • You have flat feet or high arches
  • Your feet roll inward when you walk
  • Your shoes are worn down or they do not fit properly
  • You are overweight
  • You stand, run or walk for long periods, especially if you perform these activities on hard surfaces
  • Your calf muscles or Achilles tendons are tight

The importance of seeking treatment

If you believe that you have plantar Fasciitis, seeking treatment is recommended. Otherwise, the way you change your gait in an attempt to minimize the pain associated with this condition could lead to knee, hip, foot, or back problems. Furthermore, the right specialist can differentiate plantar fasciitis from similar conditions such as heel spurs, Baxter’s neuritis, or a stress fracture in the heel bone.

Treating plantar fasciitis

The majority of people can recover with the use of conservative treatments like icing, resting, and stretching. However, recovery can take several months. 

  • You can use a hard cylinder or a frozen water bottle to stretch your foot several times throughout the day. The frozen water bottle will help reduce the inflammation. Never place ice directly on any part of your body. You need to have some type of barrier (a sock, towel, etc.) in between your body and the ice.
  • Night splints are designed to stretch the arch of the foot and the calf as you sleep. The splint holds the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia in a lengthened position. It shouldn’t feel like a stretch when putting on, rather the aim is to keep the ankle in a 90 degree angle throughout the night to prevent it from plantar flexing and further tightening those areas.
  • A physical therapist can provide you with a variety of exercises that are designed to stretch the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia as well as to strengthen the lower legs, which stabilizes your heel and your ankle. In addition, your therapist may teach you how to apply athletic tape and support the bottom of your foot.
  • Cross training in the pool or on non-weight bearing cardio equipment can help the inflammation settle down.
  • Sports massage therapy or more specifically, myofascial release can help bring blood flow and relief to the area. Acupuncture and shockwave therapy has also recently been established as successful treatment modalities for more chronic cases.

Read more on how to deal with plantar fasciitis.

Preventing plantar fasciitis

Remember to stretch your calf muscle, Achilles tendon, and plantar fascia prior to beginning any type of exercise routine or running.

Read more about other common running injuries and how to prevent them.

Please note: This blog is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.