Plantar fasciitis is when you damage the thick band of tissue that connects your heel to your toes along the bottom of your foot.
- Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain.
- You’re more likely to damage the plantar fascia tissue if you are overweight, pregnant, physically active, have a job that requires you to stand for long periods, or if you wear flat shoes, such as jandals.
- There are things you can do to help relieve the pain and heal your foot.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is caused by bruising or overstretching the ligament (a short band of tough, flexible tissue) that runs under your foot. Usually this is more likely to happen if you:
- have flat feet
- have an unusual way of walking, such as rolling your feet inwards
- are overweight or obese
- wear ill-fitting or flat shoes
- stand, run or jump on hard surfaces
- get an injury, such as a stress fracture
- have a medical condition such as diabetes or arthritis.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
The main symptom is a dull or sharp pain under your heel. You may also have an ache along the sole of your foot. The pain is usually worse first thing in the morning or if you have been sitting or standing for a long time, or after exercising.
How is plantar fasciitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and will check for areas of tenderness in your foot. The location of the pain may help assist diagnosis. If they suspect your pain might be being caused by another problem, such as a stress fracture or a pinched nerve, they might suggest an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
If they suspect your pain might be being caused by another problem, such as a stress fracture or a pinched nerve, they might suggest an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
How is plantar fasciitis treated?
Most people with plantar fasciitis recover with self-care treatments such as:
- resting your foot with an ice pack on it for 20 minutes (especially if you get pain after being on your feet a lot)
- icing and massaging your foot at the same time – to do this, fill a 600ml plastic bottle with water, put it in the freezer and when it’s solid, roll the bottle under your foot
- massaging your foot by rolling a golf ball underneath it
- wearing shoes with good support, or heel pads or arch supports in your shoes
- using night splints or tape on your foot at night
- stretching your calf muscles and the underside of your foot
- taking pain relievers such as ibuprofen to help ease pain and inflammation.
If these simple measures don’t work, your doctor may give you a steroid injection, or in rare cases, recommend surgery.
How can plantar fasciitis be prevented?
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Wear appropriate footwear, especially shoes that support and cushion your arches and heels and that have a low-to-moderate heel.
- Warm up and cool down after exercise.
- Avoid running or walking on hard surfaces.
- If you feel pain in your foot, follow the RICED procedure of rest, ice, compression, elevation and diagnosis.
If you would like more support, you could see a podiatrist.
Plantar fasciitis and heel pain Podiatry New Zealand, 2017
Heel and foot pain Health Info, NZ, 2016
Treatment options, including stretches NHS Choices, UK, 2014
Choosing sports shoes and trainers NHS Choices, UK, 2015
Landorf KB, Keenan AM, Herbert RD. Effectiveness of Foot Orthoses to Treat Plantar Fasciitis: A Randomized Trial Arch Intern Med. 2006
Uden H, Boesch E, Kumar S. Plantar fasciitis – to jab or to support? A systematic review of the current best evidence J Multidiscip Healthc. 2011