What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Do you struggle with sharp, stabbing pain around the heel of your foot? Is the pain worse when you roll out of bed and take your first steps in the morning? If you’re like 10% of Americans, then you might have a pesky and, unfortunately, pretty common condition: plantar fasciitis.

You may be wondering how you ended up here and what you’ve done to cause plantar fasciitis. Second, you may have questions about whether the condition can be treated or if this is something you’ll need to deal with for the long haul. Let’s first take a look at the common causes —then we’ll tell you what comes next (spoiler alert: there is hope!).

The problem

Plantar fasciitis results when the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, called the plantar fascia, becomes inflamed due to overstretching or overuse. Once the inflammation sets in, pain commonly occurs at the bottom of the foot near the heel. The pain usually gets better as the day goes on. However, don’t get too comfortable in one spot: it may worsen after sitting down (or standing up) for long periods of time.

The causes

If you stand or walk for long periods of time, you’re especially at risk: think runners, ballet dancers, teachers, nurses, and outdoor workers. Doesn’t sound like you? Age might be the culprit: individuals between 40 and 60 are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis. In addition, obesity and certain foot structures—such as being flat-footed or having a high arch—also increase the odds that you’ll develop the condition.

The diagnosis

How can you know for sure whether you have plantar fasciitis? First, you should schedule an appointment with a medical professional to confirm the condition. During the visit, your doctor will examine your foot for points of tenderness and confirm whether you have plantar fasciitis based on your physical exam (especially the location of the pain) and your medical history. Imaging tests such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are usually not necessary. However, in some cases your doctor may recommend these tests to rule out other causes of pain, such as a pinched nerve or stress fracture.

The solution

Once the doctor confirms that you have plantar fasciitis, what happens next? The good news is that most people can recover in just a few months with minimal treatments. Pain relievers such ibuprofen and naproxen can help to reduce pain and inflammation while you heal. Physical therapy, wearing a splint while you sleep, or wearing heel cups, cushions, or custom-fitted shoe inserts called orthotics are all common therapies for the condition. In addition, wearing compression socks or compression calf sleeves will increase blood flow to the plantar fascia, potentially speeding up recovery. More invasive treatments are available for serious cases that do not resolve with conservative measures, including corticosteroid shots, extracorporeal shock wave therapy, and surgery.


Plantar fasciitis. Mayo Clinic website. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/plantar-fasciitis/basics/definition/con-20025664. Published February 27, 2014. Accessed August 9, 2016.

Melvin TJ, Tankersley ZJ, Qazi ZN, et al. Primary care management of plantar fasciitis. W V Med J. 2015;111(6):28-32.


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