Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain in runners, eventually affecting 10 percent of the running community. While running, the plantar fascia works with the Achilles tendon to store
and return energy. Because of its powerful attachment to the base of the toe, the plantar fascia stabilizes the inner forefoot as forces peak during pushoff. Unlike bone spurs and stress fractures of
the heel, plantar fasciitis tends to produce pain during the pushoff phase while running, not during initial contact. A simple way to tell if you have plantar fasciitis versus a heel spur/stress
fracture is to walk on your toes: heel spurs and heel stress fractures feel better while you walk on your toes, while plantar fasciitis typically produces more discomfort when you shift your weight
onto your toes.
Plantar Fasciitis is caused by abnormal pronation of the foot. Contributing factors are obesity, weight gain, jobs that require a lot of walking or standing on hard surfaces, badly worn shoes with
little support, and also inactivity. As a result of over-pronation, with every step the Plantar Fascia (band of tissue under the foot) is being stretched, resulting in inflammation, irritation and
pain at the attachment of the fascia into the heel bone. In some cases the pain is felt under the foot, in the arch. Continuous pulling of the fascia at the heel bone, eventually may lead to the
development of bony growth on the heel. This is called a heel spur. When youâre at rest, such as while sleeping, the Plantar Fascia tightens and shortens. When body weight is rapidly applied to the
foot, the Fascia must stretch and quickly lengthen, causing micro-tears in the Fascia. As a result, the foot pain is more severe with your first steps in the morning, or after sitting for a long
period. Plantar Fasciitis is more likely to happen if you suffer from over-pronation (flattening of the arch), you stand or walk on hard surfaces, for long periods, you are overweight or pregnant,
you have tight calf muscles.
Most people with plantar fasciitis have pain when they take their first steps after they get out of bed or sit for a long time. You may have less stiffness and pain after you take a few steps. But
your foot may hurt more as the day goes on. It may hurt the most when you climb stairs or after you stand for a long time. If you have foot pain at night, you may have a different problem, such as
arthritis , or a nerve problem such as tarsal tunnel syndrome.
After you describe your symptoms and discuss your concerns, your doctor will examine your foot. Your doctor will look for these signs. A high arch, an area of maximum tenderness on the bottom of your
foot, just in front of your heel bone. Pain that gets worse when you flex your foot and the doctor pushes on the plantar fascia. The pain improves when you point your toes down. Limited "up" motion
of your ankle. Your doctor may order imaging tests to help make sure your heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis and not another problem. X-rays provide clear images of bones. They are useful in
ruling out other causes of heel pain, such as fractures or arthritis. Heel spurs can be seen on an x-ray. Other imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, are not
routinely used to diagnose plantar fasciitis. They are rarely ordered. An MRI scan may be used if the heel pain is not relieved by initial treatment methods.
Non Surgical Treatment
Anti-inflammatory agents used in the treatment of plantar fasciitis include ice, NSAIDs, iontophoresis and cortisone injections. Ice is applied in the treatment of plantar fasciitis by ice massage,
ice bath or in an ice pack. For ice massage, the patient freezes water in a small paper or foam cup, then rubs the ice over the painful heel using a circular motion and moderate pressure for five to
10 minutes. To use an ice bath, a shallow pan is filled with water and ice, and the heel is allowed to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Patients should use neoprene toe covers or keep the toes out of the
ice water to prevent injuries associated with exposure to the cold. Crushed ice in a plastic bag wrapped in a towel makes the best ice pack, because it can be molded to the foot and increase the
contact area. A good alternative is the use of a bag of prepackaged frozen corn wrapped in a towel. Ice packs are usually used for 15 to 20 minutes. Icing is usually done after completing exercise,
stretching, strengthening and after a day's work.
Surgery may be considered in very difficult cases. Surgery is usually only advised if your pain has not eased after 12 months despite other treatments. The operation involves separating your plantar
fascia from where it connects to the bone; this is called a plantar fascia release. It may also involve removal of a spur on the calcaneum if one is present. Surgery is not always successful. It can
cause complications in some people so it should be considered as a last resort. Complications may include infection, increased pain, injury to nearby nerves, or rupture of the plantar fascia.