What is plantar fasciitis?
The plantar fascia is a thick ligament that connects the heel bone to the toes creating the arch of the foot and acting as a shock absorber. This mechanical linkage extends into five bands inserting into the base of each toe. The plantar fascia is influenced by several factors including arches that are too low resulting in too much motion or high arches resulting in too little. An overused and tight plantar fascia can cause small tears resulting in inflamed and swollen tissue causing pain in the heel or the bottom of the foot.
What are causes and risk factor for plantar fasciitis?
Risk factors include running athletes, prolonged weight bearing, obesity and limited ankle mobility. Additionally, occupations that require long periods of standing and walking can increase the risk to develop plantar fasciitis. This risk further increases through excessive pronation (rolling the foot inward), having tight calf muscles or wearing worn shoes.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
- Pain in the bottom of the foot near the heel when weight bearing
- Pain aggravation during the first steps after awakening or long periods of sitting
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?
- Rest and avoidance of aggravating activities that cause heel pain
- Avoid running or walking on hard surfaces
- Wear shoes with relevant arch support that provide good shock absorption
- Over-the-counter pain medication and ice for pain management during the acute phase.
- Exercise rehabilitation that focuses on regaining pre-injury strength, range of motion and stability.
The exercises to prevent or improve plantar fasciitis should focus on strengthening and stretching the toes, feet and lower leg muscles, especially the Achilles tendon. Self-myofascial relief techniques such as foam rolling or massaging your feet with a tennis ball on a regular basis, wearing supportive footwear and staying at a healthy weight can further help reducing the stress on your feet. If you are a runner with plantar fasciitis, try to alternate running with sports that place less stress on your feet such as swimming or cycling.