Can Plantar Fasciitis Cause Leg Pain?

Sore heels, painful steps first thing in the morning and agony after standing or walking for too long are very common signs and symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis - but can plantar fasciitis cause leg pain too?

Any foot, ankle, walking, running or gait problems can cause leg, back and hip pain and this is the same if you have painful heels or plantar fasciitis.

The fascia ligament that runs from your heel to the ball of your foot becomes torn and inflamed, either through injury, overuse or just simply because it is no longer as tight as it once was.

Plantar Fasciitis can caused referred pain.

There are many causes of Plantar Fasciitis, the most common being that you have not been wearing the most sensible or practical footwear. If your shoes are not giving you the correct amount of support in the arch and midsole area, this can lead to the fascia tendon becoming over-stretched and may cause it to become damaged, or tear where it attaches to your heel bone.

If this pain causes you to change the way you walk, even slightly, it can lead to leg pain, lower back problems and even neck pain too.

arch support shoes

Wearing shoes like these Converse are also not a great choice if you have plantar fasciitis. Make sure you wear shoes that provide proper arch support and a sturdy, firm heel.

Bad gait causes leg pain too.

Our "gait" or the way you walk can affect your entire body.

If you have been making a slight adjustment to your posture or how you walk because of having painful heels, this will place more pressure on your calf muscles and in-turn can make you adjust the angle or level of your hips to compensate.

How to check if you have a bad gait.

Ideally, this would be done by a professional physiotherapist or a podiatrist, who would watch you stand, walk and run and possibly video your movements to spot any posture or gait problem.

However, you can also do this yourself with the help of a friend.

1. How are you standing?

Pay attention when you run to how your feet are landing on the floor and if you are placing any additional strain on any particular ankle, knee or hip.

If you are trying to avoid pain in one of your feet, it is possible you may be rolling your foot to one side (pronation or supination) or only running or walking by putting the ball of your foot down, instead of the more normal heel-to-toe method.

2. Check yourself in the mirror.

Stand relaxed and as naturally as possible in front of a mirror and look to see if your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are parallel and straight with each other.

If you are standing lopsided, it can cause leg pain as you put more pressure on one side of your body.

3. Ask a friend to help.

Get a friend to walk by the side and behind you and watch you walk and run.

Ask them to see if they can spot any unusual way your gait is positioning your body. If they can see you are placing more emphasis on a certain leg or hip, this can be a good indicator of why you might have leg pain.

gait analysis leg pain

4. Check your shoes for unusual wear on the sole.

If your gait and posture are perfect, you will have even wear across each shoe. However, if you are coping with plantar fasciitis, it is possible that you may have wear on the inside or outside edges of your shoes, which will indicate pronation or supination (rolling of the foot inwards or outwards) as a coping mechanism for heel pain.

Over time, this will add additional pressure on your leg muscles, making them stiff, sore and painful. It can also lead to lower back pain too.

shoe wear patterns

Image courtesy of Foundations Foot And Ankle

I am a runner and because my heel pain is worse on my right foot, I have developed a pain in my hip and knee on the same side when I run further than 10k, where I have been adjusting my balance and running style to cope.

It is not something I did consciously, just a way my body has learned to manage itself.

Whilst this is very clever, it is not ideal as it can lead to more problems later on.

Regular stretching is very important.

One commonly recommended treatment for Plantar fasciitis that not many people seem to take notice of, is that it is important to stretch your calf muscles every day.

One podiatrist has claimed that calf stretches are the best way to treat plantar fasciitis and I know from personal experience of managing my heel pain that adding calf stretches either using a device such as a Foot Rocker or just on a stair every few hours can help a great deal.

If you have Plantar Fasciitis and only do 1 thing to help - stretch your calf muscles and do it every day! #plantarfasciitis

Click to Tweet

When I have heel pain, especially after sitting or standing for long periods, I can feel that my calf muscles have become tight and I need to ensure I move regularly and stretch as much as possible. It sometimes feels like I am wearing a ski-boot and that my calf muscles are rigid, pulling on the tendons around my heel.

Stretches for leg pain.

There are many different stretches you can do, from standing on the stairs and stretching out your Achilles tendon and calf muscles, to doing sessions of yoga for runners.

Anything that you can do to help keep your leg muscles as supple and loose as possible will help reduce leg pain if you have plantar fasciitis.

This is a list of my recommended videos showing stretches and exercises that will help with plantar fasciitis and leg pain:

1. The towel stretch.

This simple exercise that does not use any equipment other than a towel is a great and easy way to stretch all of the muscles and tendons involved with the plantar fascia ligament as well as your calf muscles.

2. Calf stretches on a stair.

This is the stretch I recommend doing as often as possible when you have leg pains from plantar fasciitis.  Remember not to bounce though as this can cause additional problems.

3. How to massage your own calf muscle

I quite often massage my legs when I am at the office or watching TV.  They are easy to do and work wonders for painful legs.

4. Runners Yoga with Adriene

I am starting to believe that Yoga is the answer to all of my problems when it comes to stiffness and tension from my plantar fasciitis.  I am not very supple and can't even touch my toes because my legs are so tight, but doing a yoga session like this one from Adriene, really helps stretch me out, reducing back pain too.

In conclusion

If you have leg pain and also have plantar fasciitis, it is probable that they are linked and are impacting each other. Even a small adjustment to the way you walk or stand will make a big difference to your overall posture which can cause muscle tension, pain or stiffness.

Apart from checking your gait and body position and stretching properly, making sure you see a podiatrist or physio is the most important action you can take.

I have spoken with so many people since starting this website who struggle with terrible foot pain - who have never been to a doctor or podiatrist for treatment!

I understand it can be expensive for some people, but as an investment in yourself and your well-being, it is money well spent.