The Painful Matter of Plantar Fasciitis

A common cause of heel pain is a condition known as plantar faciitis that involves pain and inflammation of a thick fibrous band of tissue, the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of the foot connecting the heal bone to the base of the toes. A characteristic of plantar faciitis is stabbing pain to the heel area, particularly so upon standing following sleep or long periods of sitting, and extended periods of standing on hard surfaces. Pain may also be experienced when standing on the toes or walking on the heels.

As a sports injury, plantar faciitis is relatively common in runners, with those who excessively pronate (turn inward) on foot strike particularly susceptible. For the same reason, runners who have flat feet or a leg length inequality may be more likely to develop the condition. Significant also, prolonged activity in shoes that provide inadequate support for the arch and cushioning for the heel can also contribute to plantar fascial pain. 

In a majority of cases. plantar faciitis is a self-limiting injury, meaning improvements and/or resolution occur over time with basic treatment, but a return to load bearing sports activity may take months, depending on its' severity. Recommendations for the treatment of the injury include;

  • application of ice to the heel 
  • support of the injured foot with crutches if pain is experienced on weightbearing
  • training modification - avoid impactuous activities and substitute cycling or swimming for running
  • perform static stretching as a preventative and rehabilitative measure to include the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia itself
  • use taping to unload the area
  • ensure footwear is appropriate - runners may be too soft / too stiff, or provide inadequate arch support
  • seek the advice of a specialist who may prescribe orthotic support, a shock absorbing heel cup, anti-inflammatory medication, or administer physical therapy

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© healthpro / 2014

Published on 6 June 2014 | Back to June Articles