Plantar Fasciitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Plantar Fasciitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
June 1, 2023
Plantar fasciitis is among the most common causes of pain and discomfort that occurs on the bottom of the heel, and it affects about 10% of people at some point in their life. It is caused by stress on the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the arch of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. In this article, we will explore the causes of plantar fasciitis, its symptoms, risk factors, and non-surgical treatment options.
What are the Most Common Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp, stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot, near the heel. Additionally, the pain is typically worse in the morning when taking your first steps after waking up. Other symptoms of plantar fasciitis include stiffness or tightness in the arch of your foot, swelling or inflammation in the heel or arch of your foot, and pain that worsens over time.
What are the Risk Factors for Developing Plantar Fasciitis?
There are several risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Flat feet or high arches: People with flat feet or high arches are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis. This is because these foot conditions can cause an uneven distribution of weight across the foot, putting extra stress on the plantar fascia. In people with flat feet, the plantar fascia may stretch and become strained, while in those with high arches, the plantar fascia may become excessively tight.
- Tight calf muscles: The calf muscles play an important role in the mechanics of the foot, and if they are tight, they can pull on the plantar fascia, causing it to become inflamed. This is especially true if you have an abrupt increase in physical activity or wear shoes that are not supportive.
- Long periods of standing or walking: Jobs that require prolonged periods of standing or walking can put extra stress on the feet, increasing the risk of plantar fasciitis. People who participate in sports or exercises that involve a lot of running, jumping, or walking may also be at greater risk.
- Age: Plantar fasciitis is more common in middle-aged and older adults, primarily between the ages of 40-60. The reason for this may be due to the loss or reduction of elasticity and flexibility in the plantar fascia as we age, making it more prone to injury and inflammation.
- Obesity: Excess weight puts extra stress on the feet and can increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis. The added weight can also cause the plantar fascia to stretch, which can lead to micro-tears and inflammation.
- Tight Achilles tendon: The Achilles tendon is a large tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Tightness of the Achilles tendon can exert a lot of stress on the plantar fascia, thereby leading to inflammation and pain.
What Aggravates Plantar Fasciitis?
Certain activities and habits can exacerbate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, including:
- Walking and standing for long periods of time: To help prevent aggravating plantar fasciitis, it is important to take regular breaks and sit down whenever possible. If you are standing in one place, try shifting your weight from one foot to the other or placing a footrest under one foot to alleviate pressure. When walking, wear shoes with good arch support and cushioning, and avoid walking on hard surfaces as much as possible.
- High-impact activities: High-impact activities like running and jumping can exacerbate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, as the repetitive stress on the plantar fascia can result in inflammation. While it is important to stay active for promoting overall health and longevity, it is recommended to choose low-impact activities that won’t put as much stress on your feet. Swimming, cycling, and using an elliptical machine are all great options.
- Inadequate footwear: Wearing shoes with inadequate arch support or cushioning can also aggravate plantar fasciitis. Shoes that are worn out or don’t fit properly can cause the foot to overpronate or supinate, putting extra stress on the plantar fascia.
Poor posture: Poor posture can also contribute to plantar fasciitis. When you stand or walk with poor posture, your weight is distributed unevenly across your feet, which can put extra stress on the plantar fascia. Make sure to stand up straight and avoid slouching to prevent aggravating your plantar fasciitis.
Does Walking Help Plantar Fasciitis?
While walking can provide some relief for the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, it is important to be cautious and not overdo it. Walking can help stretch the calf muscles and the plantar fascia, which can reduce pain and stiffness. However, walking for too long or too often can exacerbate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis and delay recovery.
What is the Fastest Way to Treat Plantar Fasciitis?
Several treatment options are available that can help reduce pain and promote healing. In fact, it is estimated that over 90% of patients with plantar fasciitis experience symptomatic improvement within just 10 months of initiating non-surgical treatment. The fastest way to treat plantar fasciitis depends on the severity of the condition and the individual's response to treatment. However, the most effective treatments for plantar fasciitis are those that address the underlying causes of the condition.
- Stretching is one of the most effective ways to treat plantar fasciitis. Stretching the calf muscles and Achilles tendon can help reduce tension in the plantar fascia, which can reduce stiffness. Stretching aids like the ProStretch can be effective . Simple exercises such as calf raises, toe curls, and heel drops can be done at home and are a great way to start stretching the foot and calf muscles.
- Wearing night splints like the Dorsal PF Night Splint while sleeping can help keep the plantar fascia stretched and prevent it from tightening up overnight, thereby significantly reducing morning foot pain; this is made possible through the prevention of overnight footdrop and the associated muscle tightness.
- Wearing shoes with good arch support or adding orthotic inserts to shoes are also effective treatment options for plantar fasciitis. Good arch support helps distribute weight evenly across the foot and reduce stress on the plantar fascia. Many shoe insoles and inserts, such as the Accommodator Insoles, can be customized to an individual's needs.
- Physical therapy can be another effective treatment option for plantar fasciitis. A physical therapist can develop a personalized stretching and exercise program to help reduce pain and improve flexibility. Physical therapy may also include massage or other hands-on techniques to help loosen tight muscles and tissues. Massage aids like the Thera-Band® Foot Roller can also supplement PT treatment.
- Getting plenty of rest and limiting athletic activities can play a significant role in dialing down the inflammation of the plantar fascia. Sufficient rest helps to keep the weight and stress off the foot, which is an opportunity for recovery and healing.
It is important to note that the treatment of plantar fasciitis is a gradual process and may take several months to see improvement. It is also important to continue with stretching and other treatments even after the pain has subsided to prevent recurrence of the condition.
Knowing about the different risk factors for plantar fasciitis can help you address them accordingly and reduce the chances of developing it. If you do suffer from the pain and stiffness of plantar fasciitis, don’t forget that there are many ways to treat it safely and effectively—doing so can go a long way towards improving your quality of life.
In addition to night splints and orthotic insoles, AliMed offers a variety of adult and pediatric Plantar Fasciitis solutions, which can help shorten recovery time and provide notable relief from heel pain associated with the condition.