What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is the breakdown or degeneration of plantar fascia along the bottom of the foot. Plantar fascia is a thick, tendon-like tissue responsible for connecting the toes to the heel bone and forming a normal arch in the foot.
Patients with plantar fasciitis experience swelling and inflammation, leading to the inability to walk or bear weight if left untreated. Over-stretching of the plantar fascia leads to tiny small tears in the fibers, leading to pain as a major symptom of plantar fasciitis.
What Are the Causes of Plantar Fasciitis?
Causes of plantar fasciitis include:
- foot arch disorders such as high arches or flat feet
- poor footwear without proper arch support
- over-stretching of the plantar fascia due to high impact activities
- walking or running on uneven surfaces
- tight Achilles tendon
- aging—older patients are more likely to have loser, less elastic plantar fascia
What Are Some of the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis can occur acutely or chronically. Common symptoms include:
- severe heel pain in the morning—called first-step pain
- tenderness on the bottom of the feet
- presence of heel spurs—bony projections from the heel bone
- stiffness in the bottom of the heel
- pain in the bottom of the foot
What to Expect During Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis at the Podiatrist
A physical exam, as well as an evaluation of your complete medical history and lifestyle, is key for your podiatrist to diagnose plantar fasciitis. Also common is a gait test to evaluate your walk and determine if you are flat-footed—rigid or flexible flat feet—or experiencing tightness in your Achilles tendon.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis depends on if it's acute or chronic and can include:
- NSAIDs to reduce pain and inflammation
- splints at night to stretch the feet
- custom-fitted orthotics and insoles
- cortisone shots to the heel
- physical therapy
- taping the bottom of the foot with plantar fasciitis
- avoid high impact activities
- surgery—only for chronic conditions that do not respond to other nonsurgical forms of treatment