Understanding Plantar Fasciitis

You go to bed expecting to wake up to a new day, but when your feet hit the ground, all you notice is an excruciating pain in your heel. That pain is commonly referred to plantar fasciitis.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Plantar fasciitis affects more than two million people each year in the United States, and the majority of them are women.”

What is Plantar Fasciitis?


Across the bottom of the foot is a tendon-like tissue that extends from the ball of the foot to the heel. When that tendon-like tissue becomes inflamed and the person experiences pain, it is referred to as plantar fasciitis. Other terms used to describe this condition include tennis heel, jogger’s heel, policeman’s heel, or heel spur syndrome.

Some of the most common causes of plantar fasciitis include: high impact activities, standing for long periods of time, a person’s weight (common in obese individuals), age (common in older patients), and those with flat feet.

Common Signs & Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

The most common symptom associated with plantar fasciitis is a stabbing, deep bruise-like pain in or near the heel, commonly worse in the morning. Other symptoms may include:

  • Pain upon standing after a prolonged period sitting or at the end of a long day of standing.

  • Pain with flexing your foot (toes towards your shin).

  • Tingling/burning in the foot which may indicate a nerve is being irritated.

  • Limping if weight bearing increases symptoms.

  • Pain with activity

Ways to Treat Plantar Fasciitis

There are several things you can try to help treat plantar fasciitis. It may even be necessary to try a combination of the following treatment options.

  • Medication - To reduce pain and inflammation, your doctor may suggest or prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs).

  • Physical Therapy – A physical therapist can help relieve your symptoms by showing you the appropriate exercises and stretches. Additionally, they will perform manual therapy to help reduce the amount of swelling in the plantar fascia.

  • Orthotics – Your podiatrist may order you custom-fitted arch supports or suggest you try an off-the-shelf arch support to help distribute the pressure on your feet more evenly, reducing your pain and other symptoms.

  • Injections – In more extreme cases, your doctor may suggest a round of injections aimed to provide some pain relief and tissue repair. These injections, commonly cortisone, are not a permanent solution but may last for a short period of time as you work to reduce inflammation in other ways (I.e. rest and physical therapy).

  • Laser therapy – low light laser can help accelerate the speed of tissue repair and reduce inflammation.

Preventing Plantar Fasciitis

Before you even begin to experience the signs and symptoms, there are some things you can start doing now to promote healthy feet and prevent plantar fasciitis.

  • Stretch your feet & calves - Talk with a professional about the appropriate stretches you can do to stretch the plantar fascia, calves, and Achilles.

  • Get new shoes – Yes! That means you can splurge every so often! Make sure the shoes you are wearing provide adequate cushioning and support. If it’s been a few years since you purchased a new pair of running shoes, it’s time to go shopping, but make sure the pair you are buying are not simply for looks – but beneficial to your body, too!

  • Change your activities - If you are looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle and need a new form of exercise that is low-impact (less damaging), try swimming. Not a swimmer? Try cycling! If you can avoid running or jogging, your body will thank you.

  • Watch your weight – Extra weight leads to extra stress on the feet.

Plantar fasciitis is painful, yet can be prevented in most cases. Start working towards healthy feet today simply by incorporating some of the above tips into your daily routine. A new pair of shoes sound nice, too, right?!

If you are suffering from pain in the feet or have questions about plantar fasciitis, we are here to help! Feel free to contact us to learn more or schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists.

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