Plantar Fasciitis – Symptoms and Treatment

You probably never thought much about your plantar fascia until the pain in your heel jolted you. A thin ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot, the plantar fascia, can be a trouble spot for many people.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammation of the plantar fascia, a fibrous band of tissue on the bottom of the foot that helps to support the arch. Plantar fasciitis occurs when this band of tissue is overloaded or overstretched. This causes small tears in the fibers of the fascia, especially where the fascia meets the heel bone.

Plantar fasciitis is common in obese people and in pregnant women, perhaps because their extra body weight overloads the delicate plantar fascia. It is also more common in people with diabetes, although the exact reason for this is unknown.

Plantar fasciitis also can be triggered by physical activities that overstretch the fascia, including sports (volleyball, running, tennis), other exercises (step aerobics, stair climbing) or household exertion (pushing furniture or a large appliance). In athletes, plantar fasciitis may follow intense training, especially in runners who push themselves too quickly to run longer distances.

Worn or poorly constructed shoes can contribute to the problem if they do not provide enough arch support, heel cushion or sole flexibility.

Despite what is known about risk factors and triggers of plantar fasciitis, many people who develop this condition have no identifiable risk factors or trigger.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis can occur suddenly or gradually. When they occur suddenly, there is usually intense heel pain on taking the first morning steps, known as first-step pain.

This heel pain will often subside as you begin to walk around, but it may return in the late afternoon or evening.

When symptoms occur gradually, a more long-lasting form of heel pain will cause you to shorten your stride while running or walking. You also may shift your weight toward the front of the foot, away from the heel.

Tips to Manage Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis pain may come and go for some without treatment, but we never recommend ignoring pain as this is your body’s way of telling you something’s wrong.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do at home to help relieve the discomfort and hopefully keep the condition from getting worse.

What can you do to prevent Plantar Fasciitis? Tips for the at-home management of plantar fasciitis include:

1. Maintain a Healthy Weight.

Rapid or chronic weight gain is one of the biggest red flags for developing Plantar Fasciitis. Carrying extra weight puts a lot of strain on your heels, the ball of your foot, and your plantar fascia ligament, which puts strain on your arches and can lead to inflammation, pain, and ultimately plantar fasciitis.

Eating right, and eating foods that are high in certain nutrients and have anti-inflammatory properties can also give you added protection against Plantar Fasciitis. Read more about the connection between nutrition and Plantar Fasciitis.

2. Always Do a Warm-Up Before Exercise.

Nix the idea that a warm-up before exercising is “nice but not totally necessary.” Warming up and stretching your muscles prior to diving right in has a huge impact on how your muscles and tendons prepare for and respond to exercise. Tight or “cold” muscles aren’t able to stretch as easily, are more prone to injury, and are less able to perform and support other muscles and tendons–including the ones in your feet!

3. Wear the Right Shoes.

Wearing shoes that support your arch and heel is one of the best things you can do as far as Plantar Fasciitis prevention goes. Shoes that are the right size, cushion your heel with a thick sole, and don’t allow your heel to wiggle around are crucial–and not just when you exercise.

Don’t make the mistake of wearing heels that strain your arch during the day, and then switching to supportive shoes to exercise. Any shoes you wear–or don’t wear–throughout the day have an impact on the health of your feet. In addition to avoiding unsupportive heels and flip flops, try not to go barefoot.

4. Empower Your Shoes.

Many people have the mistaken idea that wearing orthotics is something only people with full-blown foot conditions should do–and it couldn’t be further from the truth. Slipping a pair of heel seats or inserts designed for high arches into your favorite pair of shoes is an inexpensive and effective way to prevent Plantar Fasciitis, and a great alternative to buying expensive orthotic shoes.

5. Run on Soft Surfaces.

You’ll keep Plantar Fasciitis at bay by making it a habit of running on soft, even surfaces whenever possible. Choose groomed paths in the park over sidewalks when it’s feasible, and run on turf in a track instead of the street when you can. Running on soft surfaces minimizes the impact your feet absorb as they hit the ground–meaning less inflammation and stress to your heel and fascia–and avoiding uneven surfaces means there’s less chance of landing wrong and twisting or straining a ligament or tendon.

6. Don’t Over-Do It.

One of the best healthy habits you can develop to not only prevent Plantar Fasciitis but a litany of other ailments is to listen to your body and know your limits. Focus on signs of pain and exhaustion as much as you focus on attaining your goals, and you’ll be able to avoid overexerting your muscles and tendons. Increase workout duration and intensity incrementally to help you avoid maxing out when you exercise and play, and don’t make sudden increases in how long or how intensely you participate in an activity.

7. Keep Active.

Last, but most definitely not least, find ways to stay active on a regular basis. Carving out 10 or 15 minutes of activity every day, or every other day, will keep your muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your feet limber, better able to support you, and free of Plantar Fasciitis. Don’t think this has to be strenuous activity, or even that you have to put your gym clothes on. A walk around the block, 10 minutes spent stretching, or a friendly game of catch will keep you moving and limber!

Making these healthy habits a part of your regular fitness routine will not only help you prevent Plantar Fasciitis–it’ll help you stay active and enjoy life to the fullest by keeping you pain free. Your feet take you wherever you want to go; keeping them in good shape is one of the best things you can do to live a healthy, active life!