What is Plantar Fasciitis?
The term plantar fasciitis means inflammation of your plantar fascia. The plantar fascia runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel to your toes. It’s a very strong ligament, so problems usually occur at the attachment to the heel bone. That’s why people with plantar fasciitis complain of heel pain, and it’s usually worse in the morning or after resting for a while.
You can easily feel your own plantar fascia. Just run your finger along the arch of your foot. Go on, try it – feel that rope-like connective tissue that pops out when you pull your toes back? That’s your plantar fascia… and it’s really important.
When you’re walking, your plantar fascia stabilises your arch to enable you to push off properly. It’s the longest ligament in the body – and the strongest as well, able to withstand up to 30 times your body weight.
Technically, the problem is actually more to do with degeneration of the plantar fascia. That’s why podiatrists usually refer to it as plantar fasciosis. However, I’ll use the more popular term, plantar fasciitis here.People with plantar fasciitis usually complain of heel pain in the morning or after rest. Click To Tweet
Plantar Fasciitis is a common diagnosis for anything heel pain-related, but can be mis-diagnosed in up to 80% of cases. It’s important to get the right diagnosis for the most effective treatment for you.
What are the symptoms?
You can feel a sharp pain when you are on your feet, and a dull ache when you’re resting, but usually it is worse in the morning when you are hobbling, or after you’ve been sitting down for a while.
Usually it will hurt mostly directly underneath the heel bone right in the centre of the pad of your heel.
What causes it?
New shoes, doing more activity than normal, or perhaps just standing for longer periods of time can cause micro-tearing of the plantar fascia. The extra load pulls the plantar fascia from the heel bone and causes inflammation.
Usually this damage will heal if you are off your feet for a while, for example, while sleeping overnight. However if your foot isn’t getting a chance to rest properly the new tissue can be damaged again and you start the cycle of pain again. That’s why plantar fasciitis often hurts most after you’ve been resting for a while.
Over time the tissue starts to thicken and inflamed, which can be painful to stand on. The body is clever, though, and if you let it go too long it will grow extra bone. This is the beginning of a heel spur.If you let plantar fasciitis go, you can develop a heel spur. Click To Tweet
Are some people more likely to get Plantar Fasciitis?
People who have recently changed jobs or started on a health kick can be more likely to get plantar fasciitis, and it’s not limited by age. More often, though, it’s middle-aged women and men that get it.
Some people who have injured themselves in the past can be more likely to get plantar fasciitis as the body tries to compensate for the injury.
It’s actually amazing how our feet put up with what we put them through. In a lifetime we will walk the equivalent distance to walking around the earth 3 times. There will be natural degeneration and weakening depending on your activity levels and injury history that might also contribute to getting plantar fasciitis.In a lifetime we will walk the equivalient distance to walking around the earth 3 times Click To Tweet
If you have it, are there forms of exercise you should avoid?
If you have plantar fasciitis, make sure you are giving it a chance to heal. Long runs on hard ground, beach sprints that require bursts of power, jumping and lunging can all make it worse. You want to give it a chance to heal without damaging things further.
You need to find a balance between giving it enough rest to heal, and enough work to stay strong. That’s the tricky part, but if you get it right you can recover well.
You’ll feel better with cushioning or padding under your heels. But again you need to have a balance between something soft, and having enough support. So, wear comfortable, supportive shoes, and make sure you stretch every day.
It can also help to massage the area by rolling your foot over a tennis ball or golf ball.
What can a Podiatrist do for Plantar Fasciitis?
Podiatrists are the health professionals dedicated to problems involving the feet, and have expert knowledge and training for helping people with plantar fasciitis.
A podiatrist will:
- Order an X-ray and ultrasound to find out exactly what’s wrong
- Help you find the right shoes to wear
- Give you exercises to strengthen your feet
- Help the muscles and joints work together with foot mobilisation to encourage healing
- Make orthotics for your shoes to give you padding and support
- Work with you to make sure the problem doesn’t return
Everything is focused on treating the cause of the problem, and reducing the load on the plantar fascia. That’s how you can speed up healing and prevent the problem returning.
What other treatments are available?
Podiatrists can also help you by checking your posture or walking style. They will also ask lots of questions about your injuries, and also check every muscle and joint in the area. This gives clues about other treatments that can help.
- Massage and stretching
- Making your feet stronger
- Shock Wave Therapy
- Ultrasound-guided Cortisone injection
- Platelet-rich plasma injections (PRP)
It’s important to find the true cause of your plantar fasciitis, otherwise the problem will return later.
How long does it last?
Left untreated, plantar fasciitis will take 12 months to develop the right amount of spurring and thickening to be pain free. However this isn’t the most ideal outcome because the extra thickening can lead to further problems later.
You can reduce pain in much less time with the right treatment.
People with plantar fasciitis experience heel pain in the morning or after rest. It’s common, and podiatrists are the experts dedicated to helping people with plantar fasciitis.
There are things you can do to help, but it won’t go away by itself for at least 12 months, so have it checked properly by a podiatrist.
Healthy, Happy Feet
There’s one foot exercise you can do that can really help to reveal problems with your feet. Many people will neglect their feet. But in general, athletes, sports enthusiasts and active people everywhere understand the importance of well-functioning feet. Some, because a simple foot injury sidelined them in the past, and others because they recognise the benefits of good foot exercises for better performance.
Consisting of one quarter of the bones in your body, your feet are an engineering marvel designed to withstand huge forces, which for an athlete on the track can be up to a staggering 30 times your bodyweight. Just let that sink in for a moment – you times 30. Yep, the feet deserve some attention.Your feet are designed to be able to withstand up to 30 times your body weight! Click To Tweet
There are 20 muscles inside each foot, and another 20 muscles that act on each foot from the lower leg. These muscles need to be work together in synergy to enable you to perform at your best.
Problems arise when one muscle is being over or underused leading to imbalance, compensation and loss of efficiency.
That’s why at Posture Podiatry we’re big on helping athlete’s feet to function well by themselves. And there’s one exercise that can determine whether your feet are fit for competition or not…
One Simple Foot Exercise
The exercise is so simple, you can even do it right now while reading this.
- While seated, stretch one leg out in front of you and make a big, slow circles with your foot – moving only your foot and ankle. Now, the temptation is to rush this, but it’s really important to make SLOW deliberate circles with your foot (it should take more than 10 seconds to complete one revolution).
- The key is to be able to balance your muscle action to be able to complete a full circle smoothly and deliberately. Take note of any small jolts, pauses and twitches as you move your foot in a circle.
Just make a full, slow circle with your feet. Any interruption to smooth circle movements could mean you have a problem with muscles working together, and that could mean problems down the track.
Practice this until the slow circles are smooth and consistent, and you’ll be training your muscles to communicate better with each other. Repeat before and after your training sessions to ensure they’re still working well together.Not being able to make slow circles with your feet can reveal bigger foot problems Click To Tweet
Revealing Other Foot Problems
If you’re having problems doing this foot exercise, or if you find it hard to make smooth circular movements it could be an indicator of a bigger problem, and that’s why this exercise is so important. From the perspective of a sports podiatrist, it’s exercises like these that help to identify the best treatment approach to address the true cause of your foot problem.
If you’re having trouble getting the movements right, book an appointment to see a podiatrist who uses foot mobilisation and manual therapy in their approach to improving foot function and mobility.