Your foot is made up of several moving parts, including bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. One such part is a ligament called the plantar fascia, which runs the length of your foot, connecting your heel to your toes. When this band of tissue becomes inflamed, it can lead to heel and foot pain and a condition known as plantar fasciitis (PLAN-ter fash-ee-EYE-tus).
WHAT CAUSES PLANTAR FASCIITIS?
Your plantar fascia works like a shock-absorber for your body and support for your arches. Over time, if the shock-absorbers endure too much strain, it can lead to tiny tears along and within the plantar fascia. These small tears create pain, swelling, and inflammation. Unfortunately, this condition is not uncommon and is estimated to affect as many as 10% of the U.S. population.
While it isn’t always clear what causes plantar fasciitis in every person who has it, some risk factors increase the chances of developing it. Plantar fasciitis is most common in middle-aged individuals between the ages of 40 and 60, although it can develop at any age. This is especially true for those who spend a lot of time on their feet, such as athletes or soldiers. Below are some additional factors that increase the likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis:
- Excessive pronation when walking (feet rolling inward)
- High arches or flat feet
- Ill-fitting or worn-out shoes that no longer provide proper support
- Certain kinds of exercise that place strain on the heel like long-distance running, ballet, dancing, and jumping
- Occupations that require a lot of walking or standing like teaching, factory-work, and retail
- Tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles
SYMPTOMS OF PLANTAR FASCIITIS
The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is a stabbing pain along the bottom of your foot near your heel. It is especially pronounced when first getting out of bed in the morning, after standing for long periods of time, or upon standing after sitting or lying down for a while.
You may also notice the pain after exercising, but not usually during a workout. If you have foot pain at night, it is most likely a different condition such as arthritis or tarsal tunnel syndrome, neither of which are related to plantar fasciitis.
HOW IS PLANTAR FASCIITIS TREATED?
Since plantar fasciitis develops in each person for varying reasons, there’s not a single solution that will help everyone. Your doctor will take into consideration your symptoms, occupation, leisure activities, and lifestyle to find a solution that will work best for you. However, there are some things you can do that may help reduce your pain, including:
- Toe, calf, and towel stretches
- Wearing shoes that provide adequate arch support and cushioning, or using orthotic inserts in both shoes even if the plantar fasciitis only affects one foot
- Resting your feet, especially when you’ve been standing or walking for extended periods of time
- Avoiding running or walking on hard surfaces
- Icing your heels if you are experiencing pain and swelling, or taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen