What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. It is a condition in which the plantar fascia is irritated and develops tiny tears. The plantar fascia ligament is a flat band of connective tissue under the sole of your foot that runs from you heel to all five toes. It functions to maintain the medial arch (see image below) of the foot. When this ligament is strained, it becomes weak and tiny tears develop in the ligament. This causes pain in the bottom of the foot near the heel.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

  • The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is sharp heel pain, especially the first few steps upon getting out of bed in the morning, or after long periods of rest
  • Often the pain eases after a little bit of movement, but can get worse when standing for long periods on hard surfaces
  • Tenderness and pain in near the heel
  • Pain as the heel strikes the ground during the gait cycle
  • Pain while going up stairs

Foot positions

Cause of Plantar Fasciitis

Excessive tension on the plantar fascia due to repetitive and improper loading can cause tiny tears in the structure of the fascia. This in turn leads to a weakening of the connective tissue, calcium deposits and disorganized collagen fibres in the plantar fascia. All of these contribute to the sharp pain felt with this condition.

Risk Factors for Plantar Fasciitis

  • Standing, walking or running for a long period of time, especially on hard surfaces (for example, concrete floors)
  • Increase in amount of exercise (many patients have had a sudden increase in exercise prior to the onset of heel pain)
  • Ill-fitting or non-supportive footwear
  • Being overweight (seen in 70% of patients with this condition)
  • Tight calf muscles
  • Tight Achilles tendons
  • Excessively high medial arch
  • Flat feet (this increases foot pronation, which increase the load on the plantar fascia)
  • Excessive foot pronation (see image above); this happens when one has flat feet, but also in those with normal or high arches as well
  • Age (typically occurs between the ages of 40-60)

Non-Exercise Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis 

Plantar fasciitis often takes 6-12 months to fully recover. Therefore, the sooner you can get treatment, the faster you’ll be feeling better. Below are some treatment options that do not involve exercises.

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Pain medication
  • Physiotherapy joint mobilization
  • Night splints
  • Taping of the medial arch
  • Deep friction massage to the painful area

Stay tuned for a series of stretches and exercises to help alleviate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. If you think you may have plantar fasciitis, a physiotherapist can help diagnoses and treat your condition.