Overview

Plantar Fasciitis, also known as ‘heel spurs’ or ‘jogger’s heel’, is a disorder resulting in heel pain. It involves the overuse of the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue running from the heel bone to the ball of the foot that supports the arch of the foot and acts as a shock absorber. A third of people will experience the condition in both legs, and it is most common in middle-aged adults.

Causes

Plantar Fasciitis is caused when the ligaments supporting the arch of the foot are repeatedly strained. Typically the plantar fascia will stretch excessively and develop small tears where it attaches to the heel that causes the foot pain when standing or walking.

The most common causes of the condition are:

  • Factors affecting how the feet work such as abnormal inward twisting or rolling of the foot, high arches, flat feet, tight calf muscles or tight tendons at the back of the heel.
  • Repetitive activities that require long walks or excessive periods of standing on hard or different surfaces, or running.
  • Being overweight.
  • Shoes that don’t fit properly, are worn out or lack the required support needed.
  • Aging.

Symptoms

People experiencing Plantar Fasciitis will typically feel heel pain when stopping after standing or walking for long periods, with the discomfort usually lessening after resuming movement. Pain is often experienced in the front and bottom of the heel, and can feel like a throb, burn or ache.

Pain is often at its worst the longer you are on your feet, and can be exacerbated by certain movements such as climbing stairs or standing on your toes. It is also often at its most severe after a long period of rest or sitting. Discomfort is often triggered by bending the foot and toes towards the shin and can be aggravated by a tight achilles tendon.

This disorder is often characterised by pain felt at the beginning of exercise that improves as exercise continues but returns after it is completed.

Diagnosis

To establish whether a person’s pain is caused by Plantar Fasciitis, a podiatrist may study your symptoms and health history, perform a Biomechanical Assessment to study your range of movement and may recommend a foot X-ray and/or an ultrasound scan.

Treatment

Around 90% of Plantar Fasciitis cases resolve themselves in 6 months to 1 year when treated correctly. Dan Everson Podiatry recommends the following treatment for patients experiencing Plantar Fasciitis:

  • Rest your feet. Limit or stop activities that aggravate your heel pain. Refrain from running or walking on hard surfaces.
  • Apply ice to the affected area to reduce inflammation.
  • Use pain-relief medication.
  • Stretch – toe stretches, calf stretches and towel stretches are particularly helpful.
  • The right shoes for your feet can make all the difference - a podiatrist can advise what type of shoe is best for your feet. 
  • Kinetic Orthotics may be prescribed to help treat this condition and prevent it from reoccurring.
  • Put on your shoes as soon as you get out of bed and avoid walking barefoot or in slippers.
  • Night splints to stretch your foot and lower leg at night.

Prevention

Dan Everson Podiatry recommends the following activities to help prevent Plantar Fasciitis:

  • Regularly relax your lower legs during periods when you are walking, running, sitting or standing, particularly your calves and ankles. Tension held anywhere in the legs and glutes can help trigger this condition.
  • Avoid pulling yourself forward with your legs when moving. Let your upper body lead and legs follow.
  • Always land evenly on the middle of your foot when walking or running instead of striking heavily with the heel.
  • Never walk barefoot on hard surfaces such as concrete or tiles.
  • Walk and run on flat surfaces as much as possible.
  • Stretch your feet and calves regularly.
  • Enjoy regular foot massages.
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