What is Plantar Fasciitis? | Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Plantar fasciitis is when the thick band of connective tissue (the plantar fascia) becomes inflamed and experiences small tears, causing pain and discomfort.

The plantar fascia runs from your heel bone to your toes and metatarsal bones.

Plantar fasciitis can occur when the band is stretched beyond normal levels.

It can also occur when frequent stressors continually irritate the band.

Eventually, the band may become troubled, torn, and inflamed, leading to the condition known as plantar fasciitis.

Those experiencing plantar fasciitis often describe it as a sharp shooting or stabbing pain in the foot’s bottom.

Moreover, standing/walking during the day’s early waking period is often considered the most painful.

As the day goes on, the sharp pain may subside or lessen as the feet’ bands regain their ROM.

Individuals spending long hours on their feet may experience pain lessening throughout the day due to the foot’s stretched position.

However, the pain can quickly return after resting the feet and standing again.

Additionally, the pain may return after prolonged sitting as the individual begins to stand and walk around.

Plantar fasciitis is one of the adults’ most common causes of foot pain.

Moreover, it occurs more frequently among women than men.

However, men can also experience the condition, especially older, overweight, and athletic men.

People experience plantar facilities because they work in industries requiring lots of standing or walking.

It’s also common among those performing physical exercise and sports that place consistent stress across the foot bottom.

In these cases, wearing adequate footwear, taking breaks, and maintaining good personal health can be very helpful.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Numerous factors contribute to plantar fasciitis.

It includes age, weight gain, overpronation, prolonged standing/walking, unsupportive footwear, and intense sports and activities.

These activities place increased tension on the plantar fascia, increasing the risk of plantar fasciitis and other foot injuries.

The following section covers some common plantar fasciitis causes to help individuals minimize their risk of injury.

Age

As people age, their body experiences multiple changes, including an increased risk of heel pain and plantar fasciitis.

Years of walking/standing, playing sports, and engaging in other activities cause wear and tear on the plantar fascia.

Over time this can lead to small injuries, tears, degeneration, inflammation, and tension.

The result is more individuals of older age experience plantar fasciitis more frequently.

It’s estimated that individuals between the ages of 40 – 60 experience plantar fasciitis most often. 

  • Heel pain in older adults

Weight Gain

Weight gain or being overweight is another common cause of planar fasciitis.

As people gain weight, their legs, knees, joints, and plantar fascia experience increased tension when standing or walking.

The tension is further stressed when walking on variable terrain or engaging in activities that strain the foot’s bottom.

As a result, overweight or obese individuals who frequently stand/walk experience plantar fasciitis more often.

Prolonged Standing or Walking

Plantar fasciitis results from overstretching and constantly placing strain on the plantar fascia.

As a result, those who spend long sessions standing or walking with little rest are at higher risk of plantar fasciitis.

This condition is often seen in those participating in sports like running, soccer, football, and other athletic activities.

It’s also experienced by those in careers requiring lots of standing, like nursing, food services, construction, and teaching.

Unsupportive Footwear

Uncomfortable or unsupportive footwear can place the feet in an uneasy position.

It can also produce unnecessary tension across the plantar fascia, causing it to support the body’s weight awkwardly.

The most common shoes that cause plantar fasciitis include flip-flops, sandals, and poorly designed casual shoes.

It can also result from wearing improper footwear for specific activities.

For instance, clogs are great for long sessions standing in place.

However, they’re much less effective in comfortable for those who engage in physically demanding activities like sports.

Over time unsupportive footwear can add disproportionate wear and tear across the back, legs, knees, and feet.

The result is an increased risk of back and lower body injuries, including plantar fasciitis.

Wearing proper footwear to accommodate your situation and using plantar fasciitis shoes can be highly beneficial.

Intense Sports and Movements

As previously mentioned, intense sports and constant movement place tension and weight on the plantar fascia.

Over time it can wear out the plantar fascia, increasing the risk of various foot injuries.

It includes ankle sprains, stress factors, heel spurs, neuroma, plantar fasciitis, and other foot-related injuries or ailments.

Wearing proper footwear, sufficient rest and recovery, and stretching regularly are vital in sports recovery.

It’s also highly beneficial to consult a physician or foot specialist to minimize the risk of getting plantar fasciitis.

Factors That Contribute to Plantar Fasciitis:

  • Age (individuals over 40 experience plantar fasciitis more frequently)
  • Weight (overweight/obese people are more likely to encounter plantar fasciitis)
  • Flat feet or overpronation
  • Extended standing or walking periods (work-related or otherwise)
  • Unsupportive footwear (flat or high arches)
  • Intense sports or exercises (more common among athletes)

While the factors above contribute to plantar fasciitis, it can occur unexpectedly with or without an apparent reason.

As a result, not every instance of plantar fasciitis is easily attributed to a specific activity or situation.

In these instances, those who believe they have plantar fasciitis should consult a foot specialist.

They can help those seeking treatment and medical aids and products to alleviate their foot discomfort.

As mentioned, it includes high-quality footwear, premium insoles, compression socks, and exercise equipment.

Each of these tools can help minimize or alleviate the condition.

Moreover, medical specialists can provide advice, treatment plans, and healthcare recommendations for a better lifestyle.

You can take advantage of many preventative factors to minimize plantar fasciitis besides medical aids.

What Does the Plantar Fascia Do?

The plantar fascia runs from the heel bone to the bones between your toes and the midfoot.

This thick connective tissue supports the foot’s arch and improves walking gait.

As a result, it allows for better overall support, movement, and balance.

In addition to improving support, the plantar fascia helps the feet and legs carry the body’s weight.

Therefore inflammation, tears, or other injuries to the plantar fascia can negatively impact daily performance and cause undesirable pain.

In extreme cases, individuals can experience excessive pain to the point that it affects their daily life.

Without treatment, the condition has the potential to get worse and can require plantar fascia surgery.

However, surgery is rare and generally only recommended when other therapy methods cannot treat the condition.

In most cases, individuals can use other therapeutic approaches to treat, manage, and recover from plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms

There are numerous symptoms people experience when dealing with plantar fasciitis.

It includes a tight Achilles tendon, and sharp or shooting pain, burning, or aching across the foot’s bottom.

Plantar fasciitis can cause leg, knee, ankle, heel, and toe pain, creating swelling and inflammation if left untreated.

This is partly due to stress on connected muscles and unsuitable standing or walking resulting from plantar fascia injuries.

The pain individuals experience may occur gradually or suddenly and feel dull or sharp.

Discomfort often feels the worst in the morning when a person first wakes up or after a long period of inactivity.

Individuals may also notice sudden pain/discomfort when walking on uneven surfaces or taking missteps.

Common Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms:

  • Sharp/shooting pain across the foot’s bottom
  • Burning or aching sensations
  • Leg, knee, ankle, heel, or toe pain
  • Swelling and inflammation

Diagnosis and Treatment

A medical professional diagnoses plantar fasciitis by performing a physical examination.

They’ll also observe an individual’s medical history and day-to-day activities to determine possible causes for their injury.

In most cases, X-rays, MRIs, or other imaging equipment are unnecessary to diagnose plantar fasciitis.

However, a physician may utilize these technologies to ensure no additional foot problems.

It includes stress fractures, damaged/weakened bones, breaks, and other potential foot ailments.

Receiving medical care and therapy to identify and correctly treat plantar fascia injuries requires a medical professional.

As a result, a physician, physical therapist, or licensed foot care specialist must diagnose it and other foot conditions.

Individuals should not attempt to self-diagnose their medical conditions.

Improperly treating plantar fascia injuries can cause further pain, additional injuries, or other health problems.

Plantar Fascitis Treatments:

  • Physical therapy and stretching
  • Ice/cold treatments
  • Medication
  • Orthopedic footwear
  • Steroid injections
  • Surgery (in rare cases)

The following sections explore plantar fascitis treatments and procedures specialists use to address plantar fascia injuries.

Physical Therapy and Stretching

Physical therapy and stretching are the most common methods to manage plantar fasciitis.

Depending on the injury and level of discomfort, a person may require assistance from a physical therapist.

These professionals may recommend various stretching exercises to improve plantar fascia mobility and range of motion.

They’ll also provide exercises and stretching routines for other connected muscles throughout the lower body.

Finally, a physical therapist will provide advice on rest and activity modification to assist the recovery process.

A physician or foot specialist may provide at-home treatments and routines for less severe conditions.

Ice/Cold Treatments

A physician or physical therapist may recommend treating plantar fascia injuries with ice or cold treatments.

These treatment sessions may help reduce pain and inflammation across the foot’s bottom.

That said, it’s essential to consult a foot specialist or physician regarding using cold or heat therapy to treat injuries.

They may offer alternative suggestions based on the injury type and situation.

Medication

Some physicians may prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medications to treat inflammation and reduce discomfort.

They may also recommend over-the-counter medications like aspirin or ibuprofen for less severe conditions.

Anti-inflammatory and pain medications may not heal plantar facias injuries alone.

As a result, most individuals use medications in conjunction with physical therapy and proper rest and recovery.

Orthopedic Footwear

Numerous brands design and sell orthopedic footwear to accommodate specific activities and treat various foot conditions.

Therefore, a physician or foot specialist may recommend changing footwear if it’s a potential cause of plantar fasciitis.

Orthopedic footwear can provide numerous advantages over typical shoes.

It includes improved arch support, orthopedic footbeds, specially designed midsoles, and other features.

These shoes also feature designs for specific activities like standing, walking, running, or playing specific sports.

Steroid Injections

A physician may administer steroid injections for individuals with intense pain or more severe plantar fascia injuries.

Steroid injections may also be suggested if an individual’s condition doesn’t improve sufficiently in a few weeks or months.

A steroid injection can assist with reducing inflammation and is preferred over more severe procedures like surgery.

Surgery

Most individuals do not require surgical produces to recover from plantar fasciitis.

However, a person with severe plantar fascia injuries may require surgery in rare cases.

This can result from injuries that cannot be fully healed with physical therapy and medications.

Sometimes an individual has other ailments besides plantar fasciitis that require surgical procedures.

Other times the plantar fascia may have severe wear and tear or damages needing surgical intervention.

An individual may receive a gastrocnemius recession to lengthen the gastroc tendon to assist with recovery.

Alternatively, they may receive procedures to modify other muscles connected to the plantar fascia, tendons, and calves.

Does Plantar Fasciitis Go Away?

The symptoms of plantar fasciitis can go away mostly with proper rest, recovery, medication, orthotics, and therapy.

Reducing weight, standing less often, and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise help with recovery.

As previously mentioned, those with more severe plantar fascia injuries may require steroid injection or surgery.

Anyone with plantar fasciitis or symptoms related to this condition must seek immediate medical assistance.

Untreated plantar fasciitis ailments typically will not go away and may worsen over time.

The time it takes to recover from plantar fasciitis varies depending on the level of the injury and the recovery process.

It can take anywhere from six to eighteen months to see substantial improvement.

People with less severe conditions may fully recover, while those with more significant injuries may see a partial recovery.