The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that supports the arch of your foot located on the sole beneath the skin.
It is also known as the plantar aponeurosis. This area provides stabilization to the arch of the foot and flexion of the first metatarsal during walking. Inflammation or injury to the plantar fascia can result in plantar fasciitis. This condition can cause stabbing pain in your foot and may be accompanied by heel spurs. Long-distance runners, or those who are overweight or wear unsupportive shoes, are more susceptible to developing plantar fasciitis. Women are slightly more susceptible to this condition than men, and those who are pregnant may experience this condition during their pregnancy.
The overwhelming majority of people living with plantar fasciitis will see their symptoms improve within ten months of conservative treatment. Surgery is rarely needed. While it may be tempting to change your walking gait to favor your inflamed foot, this can cause long-term knee, hip, or back problems. If foot pain makes walking difficult, using crutches or a walking boot can help alleviate pain without causing pain in other areas of the body.
- Gentle foot stretches or functional mobility exercises
- Ice therapy
- Physical therapy
- Over the counter pain medication to reduce pain
- Night splints, air cast, or walking boot
- Steroid injections
- Extracorporeal shock wave therapy: sound waves directed at foot pain to stimulate healing
- Ultrasonic tissue repair: uses ultrasound imaging to guide a needlelike probe into damaged plantar fascia tissue before rapidly vibrating to break up damaged tissue, which is suctioned out
Your healthcare professional may ask you to lose weight in conjunction with other treatment options to help reduce the pressure the excess weight places on the plantar aponeurosis.
You can prevent the development of plantar fasciitis to some degree by making lifestyle changes, such as:
- Substituting high impact exercise for low-impact activities, such as swimming or biking
- Wearing supporting shoes
- Replacing athletic shoes before they become unsupportive
- Experts recommend you change your running shoes every 450-550 miles, but this distance may vary depending on the terrain you run on, your running style, your build, and your weight.
- Limit the length of time you wear high heeled shoes
- Stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot, closer to the heel
- Pain increases after long periods of rest
- Pain increases while resting after exercise or activity
Your healthcare provider will ask about the following information:
- The frequency, duration, and severity of your symptoms
- Your lifestyle habits and exercise regimen
- All medications you take, including over-the-counter medicine, supplements, vitamins, illicit drugs, or prescription medication
- Your medical history, including other medical conditions
- Any recent or past trauma to the foot
- Familial history of similar symptoms
Your medical professional will conduct a physical examination of your foot to check for tenderness, physical deformities, foot and ankle mobility, and other common causes of foot pain, such as corns, warts, bunions, and calluses. They will observe your posture and walking gait. Diagnostic tests are not needed to diagnose plantar fasciitis, but your medical professional may order an x-ray or MRI to rule out other potential causes of foot pain.
Increased tension and stress on the plantar fascia causes plantar fasciitis.
Researchers continue to study what exactly causes this and why the inflammation occurs in some people but not others. Some researchers theorize the inflammation may be more related to the body’s natural degeneration as you age. Certain factors may increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis, such as:
- Tight calf muscles
- Prolonged periods of walking or standing on hard surfaces
- Certain types of exercise, such as long-distance running or ballet
- Foot mechanics, such as a high arch or abnormal walking pattern
Approximately two million patients seek treatment for plantar fasciitis a year.