As someone who’s recently recovered from a serious running injury, I understand the frustration of having pain that prohibits you from doing activities you love. It’s even more frustrating when you don’t know why you’re experiencing certain pain or how to make it go away. One of the most common foot injuries is something called plantar fasciitis—characterized by pain in the bottom of the heel or foot. Here are some of the more frequently-asked questions about this condition.
Q: What causes plantar fasciitis?
A: The name plantar fasciitis (fashee-EYE-tiss) refers to the irritation or inflammation of the plantar fascia—a long, thin ligament that connects the heel to the front of your foot. The role of the plantar fascia is to support the arches of your feet and to absorb the stresses and strains of everyday activities. However, the plantar fasica can become damaged and torn when too much pressure is applied to the feet. People may also be more at risk of plantar fasciitis if they have either very high arches or flat feet, if they have tight ankles and calf muscles or if they frequently engage in repetitive impact activities, such as running or other sports.
Q: How do I know if I have plantar fasciitis?
A: If the plantar fascia becomes inflamed, you will begin to feel pain and stiffness in the heel. The pain can range from dull aches to sharp pains or burning sensations. The pain may either come on suddenly after a certain activity or it may develop slowly over time. If you have plantar fasciitis, pain on the bottom of your feet may be worse in the morning when you take your first steps, after standing or sitting for a while and/or when climbing stairs.
Q: Does plantar fasciitis ever go away?
A: The bad news is that some people may never fully recover from plantar fasciitis, depending on their foot anatomy and treatment they’re following. The good news, however, is that the majority of people with plantar fasciitis can and do fully recover, with adequate rest and proper treatment.
Q: How long does it take for plantar fasciitis to heal?
A: According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American Academy of Pediatrics, about 95 percent of people with plantar fasciitis are able to recover without any surgical treatments, and most people are able to recover within a year. In some cases, people can recover in as little as a few days or as long as many years. As a rule of thumb, the earlier someone begins treatment, the less time it takes to recover.
Q: Does ice help treat plantar fasciitis?
A: Applying ice to the plantar fascia daily may help the pain subside and can help reduce inflammation. A good way to ice the plantar fascia is to freeze a water bottle and a golf ball. The frozen water bottle can be rolled under the arch of your foot and the frozen golf ball can help massage various areas of the bottom of your foot.
Q: Is stretching bad for plantar fasciitis?
A: Certain stretches can help treat plantar fasciitis. One stretch sometimes recommended for people with plantar fasciitis involves propping your toes up against a wall and stretching your toes while keeping your arch and heel flat. This can be held for 10 seconds and repeated three or four times per day. Stretches can help your plantar fascia become more flexible and can help strengthen the muscles that support the arch of your foot. If you are going to perform such stretches, however, it is important to avoid doing so immediately after icing, as stretching cold tendons may result in further pain.
Q: What is the best treatment for plantar fasciitis?
A: There are many treatment options for plantar fasciitis that can help relieve inflammation and pain, allow the torn fascia to heal, improve strength and flexibility to prevent future injury and allow you to resume normal activities. At-home treatments may include stretching, icing and massaging your feet, taking anti-inflammatories, wearing orthotics or different types of shoes and resting. In rare cases, plantar fasciitis may need to be treated with surgery.
Q: Do I have to see a doctor if I have plantar fasciitis?
A: Although some people may be able to recover from plantar fasciitis using at-home treatments, it is usually recommended that you consult the expertise of a doctor if the pain does not subside after three weeks. A sports podiatrist may give you orthotics, foot tape, cortisone injections, night splints or anti-inflammatory drugs or may recommend physical therapy. Your doctor will also be able to conduct tests such as X-rays and other imaging tests to ensure that your foot pain is indeed being caused by plantar fasciitis and not another problem.
Q: Can I still run with plantar fasciitis?
A: Regardless of what treatment plan you are following, the first step in reducing the pain is rest. Depending on each person’s situation, he or she may need to decrease or stop altogether activities where feet pound on hard surfaces and make pain worse, such as running or step aerobics. If you are unsure whether you should be doing a certain type of exercise, it is best to see a doctor to make sure that you are not worsening the problem.
Q: How can someone prevent plantar fasciitis?
A: Whether you have recently recovered from plantar fasciitis or have never had it, it is important to take steps to prevent future injury, especially if you are prone to plantar fasciitis. Visit a specialty store for shoes that support the arches of your feet and provide enough cushion for your heel. Exercises that strengthen your legs and ankles, as well as plantar fascia and Achilles tendon stretches, will help prevent the foot condition. When exercising be sure to warm up properly and avoid increasing activity levels too quickly. For runners it is recommended you not increase mileage by more than 10 percent per week.
Multimedia journalist with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a master’s in Broadcast Journalism and Public Affairs