Plantar Fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain that affects many people, notably athletes, those who are overweight or anyone who has been wearing shoes that provide inadequate support. It is estimated that 8 out of 10 cases of heel discomfort are caused by plantar fasciitis, which could affect one or both feet.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis simply means inflammation of the plantar fascia. The ‘itis’ in fasciitis means inflamed. When the plantar fascia is irritated and inflamed, it causes plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that extends from the toe to the heel. Being thick and fibrous, it provides the support for the arch of the foot.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
People with the condition often experience heel pain when standing or walking. The pain is often most pronounced with the first steps in the morning or after long periods of rest or standing. This is due to the plantar fascia getting stretched after tightening up during prolonged rest. However, the pain often decreases after the foot limbers up. As the day progresses, the foot may start to hurt more again especially when climbing the stairs.
Different people may feel pain in different parts of the foot, such as the heel of the foot, the arch of the foot, in-between the heel and the arch, as well as the ball of the foot. The pain could be sharp, radiating or tingling and reportedly affects both feet in 3 out of 10 cases when it strikes. In some cases, the plantar fascia could rupture due to overuse, causing acute pain.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
A few groups of people are more susceptible to developing plantar fasciitis. They include people who have:
- Flat feet where the arch of the foot is low
- High arches
- Feet that are rolled inward (pronation) excessively causing the inside of the feet to bear most of the weight
- Feet that are rolled outward (supination) excessively causing the outside of the feet to bear most of the weight
All the above foot alignments can affect the position of the plantar fascia so much so that it can lead to plantar fasciitis.
Other factors such as being overweight, pregnant, wearing inadequate footwear or suddenly increasing the level of physical activities that put a lot of stress on the feet, could also bring the onset of plantar fasciitis.
Prevention and Treatment
As the plantar fascia is stretched with every step taken, reducing stress on the foot is best accomplished with suitable footwear that adequately supports and absorbs shock. This helps to reduce excessive stretching or irritation to your plantar fascia.
If you have already been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, the use of foot orthotics is rather effective for many people. Off the shelf orthotics supports work well in many cases. However, more complicated cases may need a custom made solution from a podiatrist or pedorthist.
Some people also find wearing night splints and doing certain stretching and strengthening exercises helpful. In severe cases, if the non-invasive measures do not work, your podiatrist may recommend more invasive procedures such as steroid shots or surgery.