If you’re feeling pain in your foot, you might begin to wonder if it’s the commonly diagnosed plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of foot pain, and every year, 2 million people are diagnosed with this issue. Pains like these can cause significant disruption to your daily routine because it makes it difficult to apply pressure for an extended period of time. It’s essential to recognize the cause of your foot pain because it helps you get the right treatment and avoid future discomfort.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Your foot contains a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. This tissue is called the plantar fascia. It lies just beneath the skin on your heel, and it supports the arch in your foot. The plantar fascia is designed to absorb the stress of impact we place on our feet. But too much stress damages this tissue, causing inflammation and micro-tears in the tissue. When this tissue becomes inflamed, we call it plantar fasciitis. The inflammation causes pain, discomfort, and difficulty performing common daily activities.
Who’s at risk for plantar fasciitis?
Runners commonly suffer from plantar fasciitis because of the repeated impact on the soles of the feet. It’s especially common for runners who wear unsupportive shoes or let their shoes wear out without replacing them. It’s not just runners who are at risk, though. Anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet and wears shoes without proper support can develop this issue. If you’re on your feet for work, for a walking commute, or out for daily walks, you could be at risk of developing pains later in life.
People who are over a healthy body weight may develop plantar fasciitis more easily than others because the extra weight puts extra stress on the feet. If you have high body weight, it’s important to wear extra supportive shoes to protect your plantar fascia from becoming inflamed.
People with naturally high arches in their feet are also at higher risk for plantar fasciitis. High arches can cause issues because they cause your body to place all the stress of supporting your weight primarily on your heels and the balls of your feet rather than distributing the weight more equally across your feet.
Symptoms to Spot
The signs of an inflamed plantar fascia are easy to recognize. Pay attention to any discomfort you feel in your feet to determine if it’s related to this issue. Pain located on the bottom of the foot near the heel is a major warning sign. Some people feel pain throughout the soles of their feet, but it’s typically strongest near the heel. If you push on the heel area and the pain increases, your problem is likely related to your plantar fascia. Patients usually describe the pain as a sharp stabbing or burning.
Pain related to plantar fasciitis can increase and decrease throughout the day. If it’s strongest in the morning after you’ve first woken up, or after any long period of rest, this is another indicator. Typically pain from plantar fasciitis is not at its peak during activity. If the pain decreases while walking or exercising but increases after you’ve finished exercising, the cause is likely due to an inflamed plantar fascia. Similarly, if the pain increases when you flex your foot and decreases when pointing your toes down, the cause is likely the same.
Limited range of motion in your foot is another sign to look out for. A damaged plantar fascia makes it difficult to point your foot upward. This is because this motion stretches the plantar fascia, which is difficult and uncomfortable if damaged.
If you’ve seen any of these symptoms, it’s possible you’ve damaged your plantar fascia. Continue to monitor the symptoms and avoid activities that cause even more stress to your feet.
Keeping Your Plantar Fascia Healthy
If you’re at high risk for plantar fasciitis, you don’t have to wait until you see symptoms to address the problem. There are things you can do to prevent heel pain before it ever happens. The most important thing is to make sure you always have highly supportive shoes. If you’re a runner, you should replace your shoes 450-550 miles. You should also avoid walking and running barefoot for any extended amount of time.
There are also exercises you can do to decrease your risk of injuring your plantar fascia. Arch-strengthening exercises are especially helpful for preventing injury. One arch-strengthening exercise is called the towel grab. To perform this exercise, place a towel underneath your foot, grab it with your toes, and pull it toward you. Repeat this exercise a few times a day.
Stretching the arch of your foot to improve flexibility is also beneficial. Stretch your arches by first sitting in a chair and gently grabbing your toes. Then, slowly pull your toes toward you until you feel a stretch. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds.
Maintaining a healthy weight throughout your life is also important for keeping your feet healthy while avoiding foot pain. If you think you might be above a healthy weight, it’s important to use healthy strategies to lose weight, rather than pursuing dangerous trendy diets. Talk with a doctor or nutritionist about healthy methods for bringing your weight closer to a healthy level.
How To Treat Plantar Fasciitis
If you begin to notice symptoms of plantar fasciitis, talk to a doctor to discuss treatment options. The sooner you address the problem, the better. A doctor can use an X-ray or ultrasound to confirm the problem is really plantar fasciitis.
If your doctor confirms your pain is caused by plantar fasciitis, they might prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, arch supports, at-home stretching, or any combination of these methods.
If the pain doesn’t go away with these treatments, a doctor can help address the problem with taping, prescription orthotics, injections, or surgery (in extreme cases). Discussing the issue with an expert will help determine what treatment methods are best for you.