Plantar Fasciitis

Do you spend a lot of time on your feet at work? Do you have flat feet, or very high arches? If so, you are at a higher risk for plantar fasciitis. The condition typically starts gradually with mild pain at the heel bone often referred to as a stone bruise. If left untreated, plantar fasciitis may become a chronic condition and you may not be able to perform your normal activities. It can also cause additional problems with your knees, hips and back because it can change the way you walk.

What exactly is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis) is the inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. This condition commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position.
Other risk factors for developing this issue include:

  • Age: Plantar fasciitis is most common in people between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Certain types of exercise: Activities that place a lot of stress on your heel and attached tissue — such as long-distance running, ballet dancing and dance aerobics — can contribute to an earlier onset of plantar fasciitis.
  • Faulty foot mechanics: Being flat-footed, having a high arch or even having an abnormal pattern of walking can adversely affect the way weight is distributed when you’re standing and put added stress on the plantar fascia.
  • Obesity: Excess pounds put extra stress on your plantar fascia.
  • Occupations that keep you on your feet: Factory workers, teachers and others who spend most of their work hours walking or standing on hard surfaces can damage their plantar fascia.

How do you treat it?
Most people who have plantar fasciitis recover in a matter of months with some simple therapies, as long as they don’t delay treatment.
Pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen (Aleve) can help relieve pain and inflammation. You should use the medications as directed. These medications can be hard on your stomach so it’s important to take with food and not take for longer periods of time as recommended.
Stretching is the best treatment for plantar fasciitis. It may help to try to keep weight off your foot until the initial inflammation goes away. You can also apply ice to the sore area for 20 minutes three or four times a day to relieve your symptoms. Often a doctor will prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Home exercises to stretch your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia reduce the chance of recurrence. Physical therapy, devices and self-therapy options include:

  • Physical therapy: Working with a physical therapist can provide relief for symptoms. She can specify a series of exercises to stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and to strengthen lower leg muscles, which stabilize your ankle and heel. A therapist may also teach you to apply athletic taping to support the bottom of your foot. Simple home exercises can also help stretch your plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles.
  • Night splints: Your physical therapist or doctor may recommend wearing a splint that stretches your calf and the arch of your foot while you sleep. This holds the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight and facilitates stretching.
  • Orthotics: Your doctor may prescribe off-the-shelf heel cups, cushions or custom-fitted arch supports (orthotics) to help distribute pressure to your feet more evenly. We carry supports in our store that you may want to try before having custom orthotics made.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: This minimizes the stress on your plantar fascia.
  • Wear supportive shoes: We love them, but we should avoid high heels and buy shoes with a low to moderate heel, good arch support and shock absorbency. It’s also important to not go barefoot, especially on hard surfaces.
  • Don’t wear worn-out athletic shoes: Replace your old athletic shoes before they stop supporting and cushioning your feet. If you’re a runner, buy new shoes after about 500 miles of use.
  • Alternate exercises: Instead of walking or running, try a low-impact sport, such as swimming or bicycling.
  • Apply ice: Hold a cloth-covered ice pack over the area of pain for 15 to 20 minutes three or four times a day or after activity. Or try ice massage. Freeze a water-filled paper cup and roll it over the site of discomfort for about five to seven minutes. Regular ice massage can help reduce pain and inflammation.


Sources: Mayo Clinic, NIH, and U.S. National Library of Medicine