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Plantar Fasciitis: Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Treatment Options

7 Mins read

Plantar fasciitis could be a condition you’re suffering with if you experience foot pain whenever you take a step (whenever the pressure of your weight is placed on your feet.) For some people, every step feels like a sore bruise is being pressed on, and they may even check their feet for bruises, only to discover their are none.

For others, the pain of plantar fasciitis is even more debilitating than just described. Imagine taking a step and feeling as if you’re being stabbed by a knife each time you place your feet on the ground. Some people who deal with plantar fasciitis experience this kind of debilitating pain. For those with severe cases, plantar fasciitis impacts their mobility and quality of life, especially when they cannot do what they like because their body is failing them. It’s not fun when it hurts to walk, which is a basic human activity. 

Plantar fasciitis is also the primary cause of heel pain. Sadly, it is a lot more prevalent than you think with the American Academy of Physicians noting that 1 in 10 people will experience this condition in their lifetime. 

Plantar Fasciitis is a common cause of heel and foot pain constituting the inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is the thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. This inflammation creates a pain akin to the stab of sharp objects, or a painful bruise being pressed on. It often occurs early in the morning when you take your first steps, but lessens throughout the day as your muscles and ligaments warm up. However, for some, the painful stab-like sensation in the feet may occur throughout the day, over prolonged periods of standing, or when you stand up after sitting for long hours. Learn more about this fairly prevalent health condition below:  

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis? 

Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia tissues. This tissue acts as the shock absorber when you are running, walking, or engaging in other activities involving the use of your feet and lower extremities. Although it comprises a small portion of the entire human anatomy, it still plays a very significant role in your quality of life because mobility accords freedom and independence.

Constant engagement in the above-mentioned activities, and even standing for hours, creates tension in the area of your foot which could lead to micro-tears in the tissue. Over time, this can cause inflammation or irritation of the fascia. However, it is important to note that doctors are still trying to understand this condition better, and are exploring other possible explanations for this condition. Below are some possible causes of plantar fasciitis:

  • You wear the wrong shoes that don’t properly support your feet (and perhaps you need insoles or orthotics, but you don’t use any.) 
  • You have flat feet or high-arched feet.
  • Obesity
  • Too much running, exercising or jumping on hard surfaces (especially with improper footwear)
  • Exercising without stretching your calves.
  • Standing for prolonged periods of time.

Who is At Risk?

Plantar fasciitis occurs mostly in runners, athletes, and overweight individuals. The following descriptions characterize the risk factors of developing plantar fasciitis:

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1. Those With Certain Genetics

Although there’s no direct gene associated with heel spurs or plantar fasciitis in a person’s DNA makeup, there is a strong genetic correlation between plantar fasciitis and other genetic factors. According to Bela Pandit MD, plantar fasciitis can have a hereditary link to obesity and foot type. After all, excessive weight places undue stress on the plantar fascia ligament and flat feet promote tibial tendon weakness. A poor foot arch causes excessive inward roll of the foot when it hits the ground, resulting in more wear and tear of ligaments. Unfortunately, the mechanics of your feet is something you are born with and are usually inherited from your parents. 

A CircleDNA test can reveal information about your body, such as whether or not you’re at high risk for achilles tendon injuries, and other signs you might have a genetically higher risk for injury or certain health conditions.

2. Athleticism / Active Individuals

For athletes and those who exercise regularly, certain activities and repetitive movements that place stress on the heels and the feet can increase the likelihood of developing this condition. Plantar fasciitis is quite common for runners, ballerinas, martial artists, and dancers. That’s why it is vital to warm up and cool down to properly stretch your muscles and ligaments, including those in your feet.

3. Certain Age Groups

Individuals who are aged 40 to 60 are also potentially at higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis. As people get older, they generally become more susceptible to inflammation, including those in the feet. Age influences the onset and severity of plantar fasciitis. 

4. Those with Certain Pre-existing Conditions

Those with other pre-existing foot conditions may also develop plantar fasciitis, such as  individuals with flat feet, high arches, out-turned feet, or even those with odd walking patterns. This is due to the awkward weight distribution that’s associated with poorly developed feet and improper walking gait. When everything is misaligned, it can create more pressure and speed up wear and tear of ligaments.

5. Individuals in Certain Occupations

Individuals whose work requires lots of standing, such as waitresses, nurses, teachers, and assembly line workers, may also acquire plantar fasciitis due to prolonged stress on the heels and feet. By the same token, people with occupations that require them to sit for prolonged periods are also at risk for plantar fasciitis, because tissues that connect the heels and toes become too tight.

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6. Regularly Wearing High Heels or Footwear with Poor Support

For anyone, wearing footwear that don’t have good foot support, or old, worn-out runners without insoles could increase your risk for plantar fasciitis. For women, wearing excessively high heels without breaks could lead to plantar fasciitis. The reason for this is uneven weight distribution. High heels do not provide sufficient support for the feet. They also add strain on the arch of the foot because heels place your feet in an unnatural position for long periods.

While it is not guaranteed that plantar fasciitis will develop and occur in individuals fitting these descriptions noted above, they could have a higher likelihood of developing this condition.

What are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

As mentioned, the symptoms of plantar fasciitis include a stabbing pain (or a dull pain) at the bottom of the foot, usually near the heel and arches. It may feel like a pin is being stabbed into your foot, or feel like you have a sore bruise on the foot. It can occur during your first steps in the morning, in the middle of a run or workout, when you stand for too long, or when you stand after sitting down. They often occur sporadically for mild cases but may feel even more intense for severe conditions. 

Treatment Options

Depending on the severity of the case, plantar fasciitis can be treated with at-home care or through professional medical care and assistance. The following options are available for you.

Medical Treatment Options:

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1. Therapy

Therapy can help ease the tension in the feet and heels. Some therapy options include active rehab or attending physical therapy sessions where stretches and exercises are done to strengthen the legs and relax the feet. You can also use a night splint to hold the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a tension-relieving lengthened position throughout your sleep. Your doctor may also recommend orthotics or walking devices that help you evenly spread out your weight across the areas of your feet. In more severe cases, you may also be advised to use a crutch, wheelchair, or walking boot to allow you to keep your foot still and free from weight and strain.

2. Steroid Injections

Steroid injections may be administered by your orthopedic doctor or bone specialist to lessen the pain and inflammation of the plantar fascia. Some people find that when other treatments such as custom orthotics or better shoes didn’t work, a steroid injection is what finally worked for them to be relieved of this foot pain.

3. Ultrasonic Repair

Recent technology has allowed for minimally invasive procedures like ultrasonic repair. Here, an ultrasound is used to guide a small, needle-like probe into the damaged tissue. The probe then vibrates to break the damaged tissue apart. It then suctioned out and eliminated to ease inflammation and pain.

4. Surgery

Surgery is a last resort often reserved for the most severe cases. Here, the doctors conduct an open and invasive procedure where the plantar fascia is detached from the heel bone. 

Home and Lifestyle Remedies for Plantar Fasciitis:  

There are various possible remedies that you can do yourself, at home, or small lifestyle changes that could help:

1. Watching Your Weight

If you have noticed that your feet and heel pain is related to weight concerns, consider changing your lifestyle habits to maintain a healthy weight. It is advised that you see a trainer and dietitian aid you in this process. Doing so will help relieve your heels of the extra strain caused by excess weight.

2. Wear the Right Shoes (Possibly with Custom Orthotics or Memory Foam Insoles)

The kind of shoes you use can spell the difference between experiencing plantar fasciitis or not. While people often buy shoes for aesthetics and to complement outfits, these shoes must provide your feet with enough support. A shoe with moderate heels, thick soles, proper arch support, and good cushioning or insoles is ideal for individuals dealing with plantar fasciitis. Avoid wearing uncomfortable shoes or walking barefoot as doing so leaves your feet unsupported.

3. Replace Your Old Running Shoes

As good shoes are important for healthy feet, it is important to replace worn-out athletic shoes. This is because worn-out shoes do not offer as much support and cushioning. Failure to do so could even result in injuries.

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4. Vary Your Activities

If you are into running or any other sport that involves tension on the feet, consider switching to a different sport in the meantime. You can try swimming or cycling and other low impact exercises, as these do not involve bearing much weight on one’s feet.

5. Ice Therapy

You can relieve plantar fascia pain and reduce inflammation by applying ice to painful areas for 15 minutes, three to four times per day. You can also try rolling a frozen or ice-cold bottle of water under your foot, combining the benefits of a gentle massage and icing therapy.

6. Stretching

To help relieve pain, stretch your feet and arches. You can find stretching exercises on YouTube for those switch plantar fasciitis that you can copy to help ease the pain and discomfort.

7. OTC medication

Another way to treat plantar fasciitis and relieve the pain it causes is to drink any over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving medication. This will help lessen the inflammation in the plantar fascia to alleviate both pain and discomfort.

Hannah Wabe
106 posts

About author
Hannah Victoria Wabe has an MA in Development Communication, which shows how just much she loves and believes in the power of words. She works part-time as a writer and educator but works full-time as a mother of three kids, ranging from 8 to 18. Though she’s not a big fan of math, she believes in counting blessings and imbibes an attitude of gratitude.
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