Plantar Fasciitis

In order to understand this condition, it is important to understand the anatomy and function of the foot. Please read Foot Pain Info’s section on basic foot anatomy. For additional background information on the biomechanics of the foot please read Foot Pain Info’s section on basic foot and ankle biomechanics.

What is the plantar fascia and what is its function?

The plantar fascia is a strong connective tissue ‘belt’ that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel bone (calcaneus) to the base of the toes. Its function is to help support the medial and lateral arches of the foot. When weight is put on the foot the plantar fascia helps to ‘lock’ the bones of the foot and stabilizes these arches.

What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is the term used to describe irritation (inflammation) of the plantar fascia at its attachment site to the calcaneus. Although this site is the most common area for plantar fasciitis to occur, inflammation can occur anywhere along the plantar fascia.

What does plantar fasciitis feel like?

Plantar fasciitis usually begins with a gradual onset of dull, intermittent heel or arch pain. It may progress and develop into a sharp continuous pain. The pain is most often noticed on rising in the morning or after periods of rest during the day. Prolonged running or jumping can also increase the pain. Tenderness is often felt at the attachment of the plantar fascia to the calcaneus.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of pain in the heel and the inside arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis usually develops as a result of overuse. Activities such as jumping, running, walking or even prolonged standing can cause undue stress on the plantar fascia. This in turn leads to the development of microscopic tears in the plantar fascia resulting in inflammation and pain. Sometimes the body responds to this injury by laying down bone resulting in the formation of a ‘heel spur’.

Poor flexibility of the calf muscles and of the Achilles tendon, overpronation (feet rolled in), high arched feet, inappropriate footwear and increasing age are some of the other factors that can cause plantar fasciitis.

Can plantar fasciitis be detected on X-rays?

Inflammation of the plantar fascia cannot be seen on x-ray, however, x-rays may reveal a heel spur where the plantar fascia attaches to the calcaneus. Blood work may be required to rule out other diseases that may be associated with plantar fasciitis such as rheumatoid arthritis. Other tests such as bone scans or MRI’s are not usually required.

What is the treatment for plantar fasciitis?

The treatment of plantar fasciitis should be individualized. The most important first step in the treatment (and prevention) of plantar fasciitis is to wear proper shoes. Further treatment may include relative rest and icing to decrease pain around the plantar fascia, stretching and strengthening exercises, shoe orthotics or medications. A cortisone injection may be required to reduce inflammation and pain. If the above measures are not successful surgery may be necessary.

What other information is available on plantar fasciitis?

Foot Pain Info ‘s links section has additional information on this topic. Links have been provided to other websites as well as online medical journals. Visit Joint Pain Info for information on other joint injuries and problems.