What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is swelling of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a band of fibers that connect your heel bone to the front of your foot. It helps support the arch of your foot and absorbs shock. Plantar fasciitis is caused by small tears in the plantar fascia. Over time, the tears cause swelling and irritation.
What increases your risk for plantar fasciitis?
- High impact exercises such as running
- Activities or sports that involve jumping, such as basketball
- A sudden increase in the intensity of an activity
- Flat feet, high arches, or feet that rotate inward when you walk or run
- Tight calf muscles and tendons
- Wearing shoes that do not support your feet, such as shoes that are worn out
- Standing on hard surfaces for long periods of time
How can you help prevent plantar fasciitis?
- Maintain a healthy weight. This will help decrease stress on your feet. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
- Do low-impact exercises. Low-impact exercises decrease stress on your plantar fascia. Examples include swimming or bicycling.
- Start new activities slowly. Increase the intensity and time gradually.
- Wear shoes that fit well and support your arch. Replace your shoes before the padding or shock absorption wears out. Do not walk or stand in bare feet or sandals for long periods of time.
- Stretch before you exercise. Ask your healthcare provider how to stretch your plantar fascia and calf muscles.
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
What are the signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
- Pain on the bottom of your foot near your heel
- Pain that is worse right after you get out of bed or after a long period of rest
- Pain after activity
How is plantar fasciitis diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine your foot and ask about your activities. He or she may check the movement of your foot and ankle. You may need an x-ray to check for a fracture or heel spur (bone growth on your heel).
How is plantar fasciitis treated?
- Medicines may be given to decrease swelling and pain. Steroids may be injected into your heel to decrease swelling and pain.
- Shoe inserts, splints, or tape help support your foot and decrease stress on your plantar fascia. A night splint may help stretch your plantar fascia while you sleep.
- Stretches and exercises can help decrease pain and swelling. They can also help strengthen the muscles that support your heel and foot.
- Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is a procedure that uses energy to help decrease swelling and pain.
- Surgery is rarely needed to separate the plantar fascia from your heel.
Preparing for Care
How can you manage your plantar fasciitis symptoms?
- Wear your splint or shoe inserts as directed. You may need to wear a splint at night to keep your foot stretched while you sleep. This will help prevent sharp pain first thing in the morning. Shoe inserts will help decrease stress on your plantar fascia when you walk or exercise.
- Rest as directed. Rest as much as possible to decrease swelling and prevent more damage. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to your normal activities.
- Apply ice on your plantar fascia. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain. Fill a water bottle with water and freeze it. Wrap a towel around the bottle or cover it with a pillow case. Roll the water bottle under your foot for 10 minutes in the morning and after work.
- Massage your plantar fascia as directed. This may help decrease swelling and pain. Roll a golf ball under your foot for 10 minutes. Repeat 3 times each day.
- Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.
When should you contact your healthcare provider?
- Your pain or swelling suddenly increase.
- You develop knee, hip, or back pain.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.