What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common ailments that your feet can suffer from and is more common that you might think.
On the bottom of your foot, is a fibrous band of tissue stretching from your heel to your toes called the Fascia and when this gets inflamed for any reason, you will feel pain, which can range from a stabbing acute pain to a continual dull ache.
How does Plantar Fasciitis happen?
The most common way for the Fascia to become injured is through too much exertion, mainly from physical activities such as sports. Running, jogging or jumping is also found to start the inflammation.
However, the underlying cause may be that you suffer from high arches, flat feet or overpronation, where your feet are not in line with the rest of your body. As the Fascia becomes stretched, like any muscle under stress, it tears leading to pain on the underside of the foot.
Plantar Fasciitis symptoms.
The pain associated with Plantar Fasciitis is usually felt around the inside facing part of your heel and can be very sore. A real giveaway symptom for Plantar Fasciitis is that you feel the pain when taking the first steps out of bed in the morning.
Overnight, the Fascia contracts and tightens, making walking painful first thing. Over the course of the next hour or so, the Fascia tissue stretches and the pain reduces as the foot and muscles begin to warm up.
If left untreated, the heel pain may progress to the whole foot, making walking painful all the time, not just in the mornings. It is also possible that Plantar Fasciitis might cause leg pain too.
You may also find that walking upstairs or on your toes is also quite painful if you have Plantar Fasciitis, as the tissue is being stretched the most during these types of movements.
This is why people who practice sports suffer from this pain often.
Other symptoms you might have.
Due to the way the Fascia tissue contracts and tightens when not being fully used, suffers of this condition may also find that the pain is bad after standing for a long time, or after resting (the same as after waking).
If you are someone who likes to exercise, the good news is that the pain from this foot problem often goes away when you start your activity, but returns soon after. I like to run and have found that this is definitely the case.
You may also find that Plantar Fasciitis gives you pain in your lower legs too, which can lead to more discomfort.
Other foot problems might also be to blame.
As I have already said, Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common causes of painful feet, but luckily, not a permanent issue if the right treatment is given as soon as possible. However, there are other problems that have similar symptoms, which is why it is important to see your doctor or podiatrist rather than making a self-diagnosis.
Conditions such as Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, fractures or problems with posture or the way your foot might be positioned when it is flat.
Problems with the foot rolling to one side can also cause pain all over the foot. Problems with the underside of the foot can be very painful and can appear to be the same as Plantar Fasciitis but could be related to simply wearing the wrong shoes.
However, what ever the pain or problem, if the issue continues for some time, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. The earlier the treatment, the better the recovery will be.
Common treatments you can do at home.
Rest and drugs.
The best treatment for this problem is to rest your feet as much as possible and also use medicines such as Ibuprofen, which will help reduce any inflammation and stop it from hurting quite so much.
However, there is an underlying problem there that needs to be addressed, so simply popping pills is not the answer for long term treatment.
Stretches and exercises.
Your doctor or podiatrist will most likely give you a set of exercises to follow that will involve simple stretches. For example, you may be asked to stand flat on the floor with your back to the wall and do several rises on your toes, moving slowly upwards and downwards.
You should seek to get a set of exercises that are designed for your needs. As you might expect, not all patients are the same.
This great video from The Proactive Athlete shows some good exercises to do first thing in the morning:
Ice the sole of your foot.
Another great way to treat this condition is to use ice to help reduce the swelling or pain. There are many ice pack products available and putting these on the bottom of your foot will help.
If you do not have a product like this, take a plastic water bottle, fill it up and put it in the freezer. Once it is frozen, you can put it on the floor and roll your foot backwards and forwards over it, giving great relief to your Fascia pain.
Foot massage products also work well.
Professional products such as Pedi Rollers can also be used in this way. Although they are designed to massage the sole of your foot more than anything, look out for the ones you can place in the freezer to add that extra level of pain relief.
Due to the way that the Fascia tissue contracts overnight, when the foot is not being used, it is possible to use a strapped on night splint that pulls the foot straight. This will mean that the tissue is constantly pulled out, which may allow the problem to subside over time.
The downside to this is that you have to wear something similar to a moon boot to bed every night.
Plantar Fasciitis Shoes
Wearing the right shoes can make all the difference with foot problems. There are shoes and footwear available that can help you reduce the flexing and pressure on your Fascia tissue, therefore making your feet less painful and better supported. Orthotics can also be used to help make sure that your foot has no pronation or unwanted flexing.
This infographic from GrandCentralFootCareNYC shows the main symptoms, causes and treatments for Plantar Fasciitis: