Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that involves inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes and supports the arch of the foot. It usually causes pain in the heel or arch of the foot, particularly upon standing or walking. Several factors and conditions are associated with the development of plantar fasciitis:

  • Age: Plantar fasciitis tends to be more common in individuals between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Foot Structure: Certain foot structures, such as flat feet or high arches, can put additional stress on the plantar fascia and increase the risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
  • Weight: Excess body weight can put more pressure on the plantar fascia, increasing the risk of inflammation and pain.
  • Activity Level: Activities that involve prolonged standing, walking, running, or jumping can strain the plantar fascia and lead to its inflammation.
  • Improper Footwear: Wearing shoes with inadequate arch support, cushioning, or poor shock absorption can contribute to plantar fasciitis.
  • Tight Calf Muscles: Tight calf muscles can lead to increased tension on the Achilles tendon and, subsequently, the plantar fascia.
  • Overpronation: Overpronation occurs when the foot rolls excessively inward while walking or running, which can lead to increased stress on the plantar fascia.
  • Sudden Increases in Activity: Rapidly increasing physical activity levels, such as starting a new exercise routine or abruptly increasing the intensity of workouts, can strain the plantar fascia.
  • Occupational Factors: Jobs that require prolonged periods of standing or walking on hard surfaces can contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis.
  • Poor Biomechanics: Abnormal walking or running mechanics can lead to uneven distribution of weight and strain on the plantar fascia.
  • Certain Medical Conditions: Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and reactive arthritis can increase the risk of plantar fasciitis.
  • Achilles Tendon Tightness: Tightness or shortening of the Achilles tendon can impact the mechanics of the foot and contribute to plantar fasciitis.
  • Inadequate Warm-up or Stretching: Failing to properly warm up before exercise or neglecting to stretch the calf muscles and plantar fascia can increase the risk of injury.
  • Footwear Changes: Switching to shoes with inadequate support or transitioning from high heels to flat shoes can strain the plantar fascia.

It’s important to note that while these factors can increase the risk of plantar fasciitis, the exact cause can vary from person to person. If you suspect you have plantar fasciitis or are experiencing persistent foot pain, it’s advisable to consult a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment recommendations. 

Plantar fasciitis is characterized by pain and discomfort, primarily in the heel and arch of the foot. The symptoms can vary in intensity and may develop gradually or suddenly. Common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:

  • Heel Pain: The hallmark symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain in the bottom of the heel. The pain is often sharp and stabbing in nature. It’s usually most pronounced with the first steps taken in the morning or after periods of rest, as well as after standing or sitting for extended periods.
  • Arch Pain: Pain may also be felt in the arch of the foot, as the plantar fascia supports the arch and can become inflamed and irritated.
  • Pain Upon Standing: Pain is often most severe when you stand up after sitting or lying down for a while. This is because the plantar fascia tightens during periods of rest, and the sudden stretching upon weight-bearing can cause discomfort.
  • Pain with Walking: Walking, especially longer distances or on hard surfaces, can exacerbate the pain. The more steps you take, the more strain is placed on the inflamed plantar fascia.
  • Pain Relief with Rest: Pain typically subsides with rest, especially after a night’s sleep. However, the pain can return after periods of inactivity.
  • Increased Pain with Activity: Activities that involve repetitive impact, such as running or jumping, can increase the pain due to the stress placed on the inflamed tissue.
  • Stiffness: Along with pain, you may experience stiffness and discomfort in the foot, especially in the morning or after periods of rest.
  • Tenderness: The affected area may be tender to the touch, particularly around the heel and the attachment point of the plantar fascia.

It’s important to note that while these symptoms are common in cases of plantar fasciitis, they can also be indicative of other foot-related conditions. If you’re experiencing persistent foot pain or discomfort, it’s advisable to seek a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional or a podiatrist. Early intervention and appropriate treatment can help alleviate symptoms and prevent further complications.

Plantar fasciitis is primarily caused by the inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes. The exact cause of plantar fasciitis can be a combination of factors, and it’s often not due to a single underlying cause. Some of the main contributing factors include:

  • Excessive Foot Pronation: Pronation is the natural inward rolling motion of the foot during walking or running. Excessive pronation, also known as overpronation, can lead to increased stress and strain on the plantar fascia, causing inflammation over time.
  • Improper Footwear: Wearing shoes that lack proper arch support, cushioning, and shock absorption can increase the risk of plantar fasciitis. High heels and shoes with inadequate support can alter the biomechanics of the foot and contribute to plantar fascia strain.
  • Overuse or Repetitive Strain: Engaging in activities that involve repetitive impact on the feet, such as running, jumping, or standing for long periods, can lead to microtrauma and inflammation of the plantar fascia.
  • Tight Calf Muscles and Achilles Tendon: Tight calf muscles and a shortened Achilles tendon can limit ankle flexibility and increase tension on the plantar fascia, making it more susceptible to injury.
  • Weight Gain: Excess body weight places additional strain on the feet, including the plantar fascia. This can lead to inflammation and pain.
  • Age: Plantar fasciitis is more common in individuals between the ages of 40 and 60, as the natural aging process can lead to decreased elasticity and flexibility of the plantar fascia.
  • Foot Structure: Individuals with flat feet (low arches) or high arches may be more prone to developing plantar fasciitis due to the altered distribution of weight and pressure on the feet.
  • Sudden Increase in Activity: Rapidly increasing the intensity, duration, or frequency of physical activity without proper conditioning and stretching can strain the plantar fascia.
  • Occupational Factors: Jobs that require prolonged standing or walking on hard surfaces can increase the risk of plantar fasciitis.
  • Certain Medical Conditions: Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and reactive arthritis can increase the risk of plantar fasciitis.

It’s important to note that while these factors contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis, the exact cause can vary from person to person. Understanding the underlying causes and addressing contributing factors through proper footwear, appropriate exercises, stretches, and lifestyle modifications can help prevent and manage plantar fasciitis. If you suspect you have plantar fasciitis, consulting a medical professional or a podiatrist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations is advisable. 

The treatment approach for plantar fasciitis aims to reduce pain, inflammation, and tension in the plantar fascia, while addressing the underlying factors contributing to the condition. Keep in mind that treatment effectiveness can vary from person to person, and it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional or a podiatrist for personalized recommendations. Here are some common treatments for plantar fasciitis:

  • Rest and Reduced Activity: Give your feet a break from activities that exacerbate the pain. This allows the inflamed tissue to heal and reduces further strain.
  • Ice: Apply ice to the affected area for about 15-20 minutes several times a day to help reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Stretching Exercises: Regularly perform stretching exercises to improve flexibility in the calf muscles and Achilles tendon. Effective stretches include calf stretches against a wall and plantar fascia stretches.
  • Orthotic Inserts: Custom or over-the-counter orthotic inserts can provide proper arch support, cushioning, and stability for your feet, helping to alleviate strain on the plantar fascia.
  • Proper Footwear: Choose shoes with good arch support, cushioning, and shock absorption. Avoid wearing shoes with inadequate support, high heels, or worn-out shoes.
  • Night Splints: Wearing night splints that keep the foot in a dorsiflexed position (toes pointing upward) while sleeping can help stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon, reducing morning pain.
  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can guide you through specific exercises and techniques to strengthen the foot muscles, improve flexibility, and promote proper foot mechanics.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation. Consult a doctor before using these medications, especially if you have other medical conditions.
  • Cortisone Injections: In some cases, a corticosteroid injection may be administered by a healthcare professional to reduce inflammation and pain. However, these injections are typically used cautiously due to potential side effects and the risk of tissue weakening.
  • Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy: This non-invasive treatment involves delivering shockwaves to the affected area to stimulate healing and reduce pain. It’s often used for persistent cases of plantar fasciitis.
  • Taping or Strapping: Taping or strapping the foot can provide additional support to the plantar fascia and help alleviate pain during activities.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Maintain a healthy weight to reduce pressure on the feet. Gradually increase physical activity levels and ensure proper warm-up and stretching before exercise.
  • Surgery (Rarely): Surgical intervention is considered a last resort when conservative treatments fail to provide relief. Surgical options may include releasing the tension in the plantar fascia or removing damaged tissue.

It’s important to remember that consistency in following the recommended treatments is key to achieving relief from plantar fasciitis. Also, individual responses to treatments can vary, so it might take some trial and error to find the most effective combination of approaches for your specific condition. Always consult a medical professional before starting any new treatment regimen, especially if you’re dealing with persistent or severe pain.

If you’re experiencing plantar fasciitis and seeking proper diagnosis and treatment, there are a few types of healthcare professionals you can consider seeing:

  • Primary Care Physician: Your family doctor or general practitioner can often diagnose and provide initial treatment recommendations for plantar fasciitis. They might prescribe medication, suggest lifestyle modifications, and provide basic advice on managing the condition.
  • Podiatrist: A podiatrist is a specialized medical doctor who focuses on foot and ankle health. They have in-depth knowledge of foot conditions and can provide more specialized care for plantar fasciitis. Podiatrists can offer a comprehensive diagnosis, recommend specific treatments, perform procedures like corticosteroid injections, and provide custom orthotic inserts.
  • Orthopedic Specialist: An orthopedic doctor specializes in musculoskeletal conditions, including those related to bones, joints, and soft tissues. If your plantar fasciitis is severe or not responding to initial treatments, an orthopedic specialist can provide more advanced treatment options and even consider surgical intervention if necessary.
  • Physical Therapist: A physical therapist can work with you to develop a targeted exercise program that focuses on improving foot and calf muscle strength, flexibility, and overall foot mechanics. They can guide you through proper stretching techniques and recommend exercises to help alleviate plantar fasciitis symptoms.
  • Sports Medicine Specialist: If your plantar fasciitis is related to athletic activities or sports, a sports medicine specialist can provide tailored advice and treatments to help you continue with your activities while managing the condition.
  • Chiropractor: Chiropractors can provide adjustments and treatments to improve foot alignment and alleviate strain on the plantar fascia. However, it’s important to ensure you’re seeing a reputable and qualified chiropractor if you choose this route.

When seeking care for plantar fasciitis, it’s a good idea to start with your primary care physician or a podiatrist. They can provide an initial assessment, recommend appropriate treatments, and refer you to specialists if needed. Keep in mind that the choice of healthcare professional can depend on your personal preferences, the severity of your condition, and the treatment approach you’re comfortable with. Always ensure that the healthcare professional you choose is qualified and experienced in treating foot and ankle conditions. 

Yes, exercise can be beneficial for managing plantar fasciitis, but it’s important to approach it in a careful and strategic manner. Properly chosen exercises can help strengthen the muscles in the feet and lower legs, improve flexibility, and promote better foot mechanics, all of which can contribute to reducing the strain on the plantar fascia and alleviating pain. However, it’s crucial to avoid exercises that might exacerbate the condition or put excessive strain on the already inflamed tissue.

Here are some exercises that are generally considered helpful for managing plantar fasciitis:

  • Calf Stretches: Gentle calf stretches can help relieve tension on the Achilles tendon, which is connected to the plantar fascia. Wall stretches and towel stretches are common calf stretches.
  • Plantar Fascia Stretches: Stretches that target the plantar fascia itself can help improve flexibility and reduce strain. For example, you can gently stretch the arch of your foot by pulling your toes back with your hand.
  • Towel Scrunches: Place a towel on the floor and use your toes to scrunch it toward you. This exercise helps strengthen the muscles in the arch of your foot.
  • Toe Raises: While sitting, try raising your toes while keeping your heels on the ground. This exercise engages the muscles in the front of your shin, which can help support the arch of your foot.
  • Intrinsic Foot Muscle Exercises: These exercises target the small muscles within the foot. For example, you can place a small ball or a towel under your foot and try to scrunch it up using the muscles in your foot.
  • Ankle Circles: Gently rotate your ankles in circular motions to improve ankle flexibility.
  • Calf Raises: Stand on the edge of a step or a curb and raise your heels, then lower them below the step to stretch the calf muscles.
  • Foot Rolling: Roll a golf ball or a frozen water bottle under your foot to massage and stretch the plantar fascia.

It’s important to start with gentle exercises and gradually increase intensity as your symptoms improve. If an exercise causes pain or discomfort, stop immediately and avoid that exercise until you consult a healthcare professional. It’s also recommended to perform these exercises under the guidance of a physical therapist or a healthcare provider who can tailor the exercises to your specific needs and monitor your progress.

Remember that exercise is just one component of a comprehensive treatment plan for plantar fasciitis. It should be combined with other treatments, such as proper footwear, orthotics, stretching, rest, and any medical interventions recommended by a healthcare professional.

Surgery for plantar fasciitis is generally considered a last resort and is rarely necessary. Most cases of plantar fasciitis can be effectively managed with conservative treatments, and surgery is only considered if other methods have been exhausted and the condition is severely impacting your daily life and mobility.

Surgery for plantar fasciitis is typically considered when:

  • Conservative Treatments Fail: If you have tried a combination of non-surgical treatments, such as rest, physical therapy, orthotics, medication, and other interventions, and your symptoms persist or worsen, surgery might be considered.
  • Chronic and Severe Pain: If your plantar fasciitis has been present for an extended period and is causing persistent, severe pain that significantly impairs your quality of life and ability to perform daily activities, surgery might be an option.
  • Structural Issues: In some cases, plantar fasciitis might be due to structural abnormalities in the foot, such as a heel spur. If these structural issues are a primary cause of your condition and conservative treatments have not provided relief, surgery might be considered to address these abnormalities.
  • Other Treatments Not Feasible: If you have certain medical conditions that limit your ability to undergo conservative treatments or receive certain medications, surgery might be considered as an alternative.

Common surgical procedures for plantar fasciitis include:

  • Plantar Fascia Release: This procedure involves partially cutting or releasing the plantar fascia to relieve tension and reduce inflammation. It can be done either through an open incision or using minimally invasive techniques.
  • Heel Spur Removal: If a heel spur is contributing to your plantar fasciitis, surgery might involve removing the spur along with releasing the plantar fascia.

It’s important to note that surgery comes with risks and potential complications, such as infection, nerve damage, and incomplete pain relief. Recovery from surgery can also take time, and you’ll likely need to follow post-operative instructions carefully to ensure a successful outcome.

Before considering surgery for plantar fasciitis, it’s recommended to exhaust all conservative treatment options under the guidance of a healthcare professional. If you’re experiencing persistent and severe plantar fasciitis symptoms, consult with a podiatrist or orthopaedic specialist to discuss the potential benefits, risks, and alternatives of surgery in your specific case.

Chews health top tip for plantar fasciitis

Try and use a combination of exercises, modified activity and supportive footwear to help manage and improve your pain.

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I had been suffering from plantar fasciitis for some months and went Chews Health in the summer for shockwave treatment, after my podiatrist said she had heard good reports about it. Until then I had been resting, exercising it, icing it, using insoles etc., none of which had made much difference. I booked six treatments at the start (recommended) and by the time of the last treatment It was hardly noticeable, so much better! I’ve had two further treatments over the last month, just to be on the safe side, and I’m doing some exercises now to build up the strength in my calf and foot. Chews Health comes with heartfelt recommendations from me, they are friendly, very knowledgeable and best of all - they have fixed my sore foot!