Understanding Plantar Fasciitis

Sole of foot showing plantar fascia.Plantar fasciitis is a condition that causes foot and heel pain. The plantar fascia is a tough band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes. This tissue pulls on the heel bone. It supports the arch of the foot as it pushes off the ground. If the tissue becomes irritated or red and swollen (inflamed), it is called plantar fasciitis.

How to say it

PLAN-tuhr fa-see-IY-tis

What causes plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis most often occurs from overusing the plantar fascia. The tissue may become damaged from activities that put repeated stress on the heel and foot. Or it may wear down over time with age and ankle stiffness. You are more likely to have plantar fasciitis if you:

  • Do activities that require a lot of running, jumping, or dancing

  • Have a job that requires being on your feet for long periods

  • Are overweight or obese

  • Have certain foot problems, such as a tight Achilles tendon, flat feet, or high arches

  • Often wear poorly fitting shoes

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis

The condition most often causes pain in the heel and the bottom of the foot. The pain may occur when you take your first steps in the morning. It may get better as you walk throughout the day. But as you continue to put weight on the foot, the pain often returns. Pain may also occur after standing or sitting for long periods.

Treating plantar fasciitis

Treatments for plantar fasciitis include:

  • Resting the foot. This involves limiting movements that make your foot hurt. You may also need to avoid certain sports and types of work for a time.

  • Using cold packs. Put an ice pack on the heel and foot to help reduce pain and swelling.

  • Taking pain medicines. Prescription and over-the-counter pain medicines can help relieve pain and swelling.

  • Using heel cups or foot inserts (orthotics). These are placed in the shoes to help support the heel or arch and cushion the heel. You may also be told to buy proper-fitting shoes with good arch support and cushioned soles.

  • Taping the foot. This supports the arch and limits the movement of the plantar fascia to help relieve symptoms.

  • Wearing a night splint. This stretches the plantar fascia and leg muscles while you sleep. This may help relieve pain.

  • Doing exercises and physical therapy. These stretch and strengthen the plantar fascia and the muscles in the leg that support the heel and foot.

  • Getting shots of medicine into the foot. These may help relieve symptoms for a time.

  • Having surgery. This may be needed if other treatments fail to relieve symptoms. During surgery, the surgeon may partially cut the plantar fascia to release tension.

Possible complications of plantar fasciitis

Without proper care and treatment, healing may take longer than normal. Also, symptoms may continue or get worse. Over time, the plantar fascia may be damaged. This can make it hard to walk or even stand without pain.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed

  • Symptoms that don’t get better with treatment, or get worse

  • New symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, or weakness in the foot