Key Points about Plantar Fasciitis

  • While the cause of plantar fasciitis is unknown, it typically affects people who spend a lot of time on their feet, such as long-distance runners, nurses, teachers, or overweight people.
  • Pain on the bottom of the heel or under the arch is the most common symptom of plantar fasciitis.
  • In many cases, plantar fasciitis can be prevented by stretching, wearing proper athletic shoes, losing weight, and limiting the activities that are causing your pain.
  • Plantar fasciitis can typically be diagnosed in a physical exam. Diagnostic imaging is not generally needed unless your doctor suspects you have a bone spur or other orthopedic conditions.
  • Most cases of plantar fasciitis go away on their own within six months. Surgery is only necessary in severe cases.

Overview

Plantar fasciitis, also commonly referred to as jogger’s heel is a common orthopedic issue that is characterized by pain and stiffness in the bottom of the heel.

Your plantar fascia is a ligament on the bottom of your foot that connects your heel to the front of the foot. The plantar fascia is responsible for supporting the arch of the foot.

As people age, the plantar fascia wears down and can tear if too much pressure is placed on the ligament.

Plantar fasciitis injury causes

While the cause of plantar fasciitis is unknown in many cases, it may develop if excessive stress is put on the supporting arch of your foot, causing the fascia to tear.

Plantar fasciitis symptoms

The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain on the bottom of the heel or under the arch.

The pain is more intense:

  • In the morning, as you step out of bed or after an extended period of inactivity.
  • When you are climbing stairs.
  • After you finish the activity.

Typically, plantar fasciitis affects only one foot.

Plantar fasciitis complications

If left untreated, plantar fasciitis can lead to severe chronic heel pain, which may impact your ability to perform your daily activities.

Plantar fasciitis risk factors

Several factors can increase your likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis. Risk factors include:

  • People between the ages of 40 and 60 are most likely to develop plantar fasciitis.
  • Activities such as long-distance running can place excess stress on your heel and arch, which increases your chances of developing plantar fasciitis.
  • People who are overweight are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis due to the increased stress put on the plantar fascia.
  • People who have occupations such as nursing, where they spend many hours a day standing or walking on hard surfaces.
  • People with flat feet or a high arch are at increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis prevention

Plantar fasciitis can be prevented by following these guidelines:

  • If you are overweight or obese, lose weight.
  • Replace your shoes often.
  • Wear shoes with proper support.
  • Avoid walking barefoot on hard surfaces.
  • Stretch your legs and feet daily.
  • Limit or avoid activities that cause symptoms.

Plantar fasciitis diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose plantar fasciitis. During a clinic visit, your doctor will take a full medical history, evaluate your symptoms, and determine what activities cause your pain. Typically, the location of your pain can reveal the cause.

In some cases, your doctor will order an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test to determine if you have a more severe condition.

Plantar fasciitis treatment

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan depending upon the severity of your case. 

In most cases, nonsurgical treatments are effective.

Conservative therapies for plantar fasciitis include:

  • Stretching your legs and feet daily.
  • Wear properly fitting shoes with proper arch support.
  • Medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Wearing a splint or foot brace overnight.
  • Custom insoles that support the arches.
  • Cortisone injection.
  • Physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the plantar fascia.

When conservative treatments are not effective, you may need more advanced treatments such as:

  • Cortisone injection directly into the affected area for pain relief.
  • Shock wave therapy. During shock wave therapy, sound waves are aimed at affected tissue to stimulate healing.
  • In rare cases, surgery may be required. During surgery, your doctor will detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone.

When to Seek Care

If you have symptoms of plantar fasciitis that do not go away with self-care and are impacting your daily activities.

Next Steps

If you have mild symptoms, try self-care therapies such as:

  • Stretching your feet and legs daily.
  • Lose weight to avoid placing unnecessary stress on your plantar fascia.
  • Buy new athletic shoes if the ones you are wearing are worn out.
  • Modify your activities. Try swimming instead of running until your condition improves.
  • Ice the area for up to 15 minutes three or four times a day.

If self-care is not helping, schedule an appointment with your doctor. In preparation for your appointment, take notes on your symptoms, when your symptoms are most severe, and any questions you may have about your condition.

Once diagnosed, carefully follow your doctor’s treatment and recovery instructions.

If surgery is a part of your treatment plan, pay close attention to any complications that may develop. If you notice any new symptoms that are not normal, call your doctor right away to determine the next steps.