If foot pain or discomfort has become more noticeable in your day-to-day activities, you may encounter plantar fasciitis symptoms. This common foot condition can make starting your day off on the right foot slightly more challenging, with stinging sensations in the heel and base of each foot. Identifying this condition and learning how to prevent and treat this foot pain can put you on the path to comfort and recovery.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?Plantar fasciitis is a foot condition that occurs when the plantar fascia — the thick band of tissue underneath the foot — becomes inflamed. The plantar fascia ligament connects the toes to the heel bone, and overuse of this area of the foot can cause this inflammation to turn into heel pain over time. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot conditions that cause heel pain or discomfort. About one in 10 people can expect to experience plantar fasciitis at one point in their lifetime. When you start to feel a sharp pain in your heel, you may feel the need to use your toes or the balls of your feet to support your weight and movement. This can temporarily relieve the heel area but can cause the arches to ache from overuse of the toes and balls of both feet. Heel and arch pain can start as early as first thing in the morning, and the sensations can decrease throughout the day. However, starting your day with pain-free movement is vital for improving your foot’s overall health and function.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?Like most causes of foot pain, you can experience symptoms of plantar fasciitis with more pressure on your feet each day. Walking long distances, standing for long periods or participating in running exercises can lead to inflammation of the plantar fascia. For some patients, it may not be clear what caused their heel pain. Small tears from tension and stress can appear naturally, leading to plantar fasciitis without a known cause. The most common risk factors of plantar fasciitis include:
- Certain exercises: Some physical activities place more pressure on the plantar fascia. Ballet, running and aerobic dancing use the arches of each foot to absorb contact with the ground or stretch the ligament regularly, which can lead to plantar fasciitis.
- Occupations: If you work in an environment where you are walking around or standing for long periods, you might experience pain or discomfort in your heels or the arches of your feet. Each foot supports your weight as you walk and stand during your workday. Taking breaks to sit and relax your feet can relieve plantar fasciitis symptoms.
- Body weight: Everyone’s bodies are different, and so is their feet’s ability to support weight throughout the day. The plantar fascia can stretch and adapt to body weight as we grow from children to adults. However, when weight changes drastically, the ligaments in our feet can sometimes find it challenging to catch up, causing plantar fasciitis.
- Age: The natural aging process can increase the chances of experiencing plantar fasciitis at some point in your lifetime. This foot condition is most common for individuals between the ages of 40 and 80.
- Foot structures: Many people have different foot mechanics than others. Whether they have a higher arch or walk in a unique pattern, these structures and movements can cause body weight to fluctuate to different areas of the foot more often, increasing the possibility of plantar fasciitis in the heel and arch.
How to Prevent Plantar FasciitisAvoiding overuse of your feet throughout the day is the best way to prevent and alleviate discomfort from plantar fasciitis. Supporting your feet is key to pain-free movement so you can enjoy your favorite hobbies and physical activities without the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. The best methods to prevent plantar fasciitis include:
- Stretching before and after exercising
- Wearing shoes with heel and arch support
- Replacing your sneakers after six to nine months
- Avoiding walking barefoot on hard surfaces
- Giving your feet a break after exercising, standing or walking for long periods
When to See a Doctor for Plantar Fasciitis — Treatment OptionsWhen your foot pain is recurring and causes a disruption in your daily activities, the best course of action is to make a trip to your doctor’s office. How to fix plantar fasciitis ranges from at-home exercises to surgical procedures, and the best treatment option can differ from person to person. Visiting a foot specialist can help provide maximum comfort for your feet so you can get back to your favorite activities as quickly as possible. To find the best plantar fasciitis treatments, follow this step-by-step guide for this foot condition.
1. Getting a DiagnosisThe first step in treating plantar fasciitis is receiving the proper diagnosis. Plantar fasciitis is relatively easy to diagnose due to the tender areas of the foot that your doctor can take note of during your appointment. Your health care provider may recommend an imaging test or MRI to rule out other foot conditions, such as bone spurs.
2. Plantar Fasciitis TreatmentsTreatment options for plantar fasciitis may involve medication and physical therapy that can aid in pain relief. Surgery is also an option for faster treatments that can get you back on your feet in no time. Your podiatrist may recommend any of the following three treatments based on your pain levels and other risk factors:
- Medication: To relieve foot pain, you may receive a prescription for ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or another medication that reduces inflammation in your feet.
- Medical therapy: Strengthening and supporting the plantar fascia in your foot can allow the ligament to stretch as needed for pain-free movement throughout your day. For reduced pain through monitored exercises, your foot specialist may recommend a cane or walking boot, night splints, orthotics or physical therapy.
- Surgery: Surgery and other procedures can help you feel relief based on your podiatrist’s recommendation. Treatment options can include steroid injections, ultrasonic tissue repair, extracorporeal shock wave therapy and surgery.