- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
What is Plantar Fasciitis and How Should It Be Treated?
When I was preparing to run a 5k for the first time, I was a little concerned that my plantar fasciitis would start to flare up.
Plantar fasciitis is when the thick tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot - the plantar fascia - becomes inflamed. The plantar fascia connects the heel bone to the toes and it forms the arch of the foot.
I remember the first time I developed this problem several years ago. To save money and since I was also a regular in a boot camp class, I had quit my membership in a gym planned to do step aerobics in my basement. I already had all the equipment I needed and proceeded to start a workout routine that involved high impact aerobics.
After about a couple weeks or so of this, trouble started. The arch of my foot felt tight and my feet hurt when I got out of bed in the morning. My heel felt bruised.
I had no idea what it was. Of course, I didn't realize that jumping up and down doing high impact exercises on my concrete basement floor created my problem. Duh!
I mentioned the problem to my boot camp instructor. He told me he thought it was plantar fasciitis and gave me some suggestions to get the inflammation down. Eventually, I ended up going to a podiatrist who gave me some very good tips on shoes and inserts.
Factors for developing plantar fasciitis
- Most common between the ages of 40 and 60
- Women more likely than men
- Activities that place a lot of stress on your heel and attached tissues, such as long-distance running, ballet dancing and dance aerobics
- Being flat-footed, having a high arch or even having an abnormal pattern of walking
- Being overweight
- Occupations that require a lot of walking or standing on hard surfaces such as factory workers, teachers and waitresses
- Wearing shoes that are thin-soled, loose, or lack arch support or the ability to absorb shock don't protect your feet or regularly wearing high heels. Don't go barefoot, especially on hard surfaces
The podiatrist I saw recommended an insert that replaces the insole of your shoe. I found what I needed at Lady Footlocker and boy do they work great! They are much better than a gel-type of insole you would find at a drugstore.
The most common symptom is pain and stiffness in the bottom of the heel, which may feel dull or sharp. Also, the arch of the foot will feel tight.
Plantar fasciitis is usually worse in the morning because you've been off your feet six or eight hours. Taking that first step out of bed is going to hurt but the heel and arch loosen up a bit after that.
It will also be uncomfortable after you've been sitting or standing a while and after intense activity.
What will the doctor look for?
A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle, and lower legs.
The podiatrst will check for tenderness on the bottom of your foot and heel. If you have flat feet or high arches, you might be more likely to develop this problem if you don't take precautions. In addition, the doctor will ask if there is tightness on the bottom of the foot.
Tips on treating plantar fasciitis
Treating plantar fasciitis can range from taking a pain reliever to surgery.
- Take ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (like Tylenol) to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Sit in a chair with a frozen bottle of water or soda pop can under the foot you want to treat. Applying some pressure, roll the bottle back and forth with your foot. The cold releases the swelling while the massage eases the pain.
- Massage the arch of your foot to stretch and keep the muscle limber.
- You may have to wear a splint fitted to your calf and foot while you sleep. This holds the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight so that they can be stretched more effectively.
Place a rolled towel under the ball of your foot, holding the towel at both ends. Gently pull the towel toward you while keeping your knee straight. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times.
- Your doctor may recommend inserts for your shoes. Mine recommended a brand called Spenco.
- A steroid injection in the heel or even surgery may be necessary if the above measures don't work.
As soon as you notice symptoms of plantar fasciitis, start taking steps to alleviate the pain and prevent further injury. If you do that, you should have few lasting effects of plantar fasciitis.