Plantar fasciitis: causes, symptoms and treatments
Last update: 15 February 2020
If you experience heel pain when you take your first steps in the morning, after sitting for a long time, or if you have a specific pain like a heel spur, this topic is for you.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most prevalent foot problems. It is caused by stretching or a rupture of the plantar fascia, the fibrous band that supports the arch of the foot.
The most apparent symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain in the heel. The person will feel pain when they take their first steps in the morning, or after sitting for a long time.
A person who suffers from plantar fasciitis will experience pain from their first steps in the morning, with the pain fading throughout the day. They will also feel pain when they walk after sitting for a long time. Some of the other symptoms of plantar fasciitis are described below.
- Pain in the arch of the foot: pain when touching your foot arch or applying pressure to your heel
- Pain standing up or walking that worsens over time
- Pain on the outer side of the foot: compensation pain may be felt in this area
- Pain that worsens over time, if not treated.
- Burning sensation in the heel
- Sensation of a pinprick under the heel, like a spur in the skin
- Moving: difficulty going up or down stairs
Why does someone develop plantar fasciitis? There are several reasons for this, some of which include:
- Obesity: carrying extra weight can cause this type of pathology. That’s why plantar fasciitis is also present among some pregnant women (rapid weight gain)
- Your foot type: if you have flat or overarched feet, you are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis
- Your shoes: if you wear old shoes, with too soft a heel counter, or shoes that are too rigid or too soft or do not provide proper plantar arch support, you are inviting problems
- Legs: if you have a leg that is longer than the other, or if you have improper leg rotation, you are more at risk
- Calves: having calf muscles that are tight or not relaxed enough (rigid) can be an issue
- Physical exercise: not stretching before exercising can also cause plantar fasciitis. People who race, take long walks or jumps are also vulnerable to this type of pathology
- Age: plantar fasciitis increases with age. This can cause micro tears in the fascia. Stretching may be counterproductive in this case
- Inflammatory diseases: you are more at risk if you suffer from an inflammatory disease like arthritis
Preventing plantar fasciitis
You can take some steps to prevent plantar fasciitis, especially if you have already experienced it. You must modify some of your habits.
- Physical exercise: allow for appropriate recuperation time between activities
- Listen to your symptoms: stop if an activity worsens your pain
- Train under proper conditions: stretch properly and use the proper equipment when engaging in new activities
- Healthy weight: maintain proper body weight
- Slowly increase exercise time for walking and running
- Do post-exercise stretching
- Shoes: Replace your running shoes every 600 to 800 km and ensure your footwear is adapted to the activity
Treating plantar fasciitis
There are several treatments to relieve the ailments caused by plantar fasciitis. Below are several of them, ranging from conservative methods to more invasive methods.
- Avoid walking barefooted
- Massage your feet
- Use a towel to stretch your feet
- Roll a ball under your feet without causing pain
- Wear an elastic bandage to help reduce inflammation.
- Place a handkerchief on the ground and try to pick it up with your toes
- Reduce your activities, especially those that cause you pain
- Apply ice to the painful area, 10 minutes every hour
If these treatments do not alleviate the problem, consult a podiatrist, who will be able to assist you.
- Perform stretching and other specific exercises, as prescribed by your podiatrist
- Wear comfortable cushioned shoes (sneakers are the best option)
- Complete manual therapy with your podiatrist
- Meet with your podiatrist to apply a therapeutic bandage
- Ask your podiatrist for anti-inflammatories
Some more serious cases may require more radical procedures, which will be supervised by your podiatrist.
- Cortisone injections
- Prescription for foot orthosis
- Wear a night splint to reduce symptoms
- Immobilize the foot in an orthopedic boot or cast
- Shock wave therapy, for cases that do not respond to other treatments
Plantar fasciitis and heel spur
Plantar fasciitis is a major cause of pain to the heel. But it is not the only source of pain.
Heel spur also bring patients to the podiatrist’s office. But we mustn’t confuse the two conditions.