On the bottom of your foot, there is a thick band of tissue called the plantar fascia that connects the front of the foot with the heel bone. The plantar fascia helps to support the arch of the foot and absorbs shock when our feet hit the ground.
The plantar fascia can become inflamed and cause stabbing pain in the heel. Typically, symptoms are at their worst upon waking in the morning and improve once you get up and move around.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Many people believe that plantar fasciitis is caused by repetitive stress. Stresses to the plantar fascia can cause small tears and these, in turn, can lead to inflammation and heel pain.
Even though plantar fasciitis can develop without an obvious cause, some factors can increase your risk of developing this condition. They include:
- Age. Plantar fasciitis is most common in people between the ages of 40 and 60.
- Certain types of exercise. Activities that place a lot of stress on your heel and attached tissue — such as long-distance running, ballet dancing, and aerobic dance — can contribute to the onset of plantar fasciitis.
- Foot mechanics. Flat feet, a high arch, or even an atypical pattern of walking can affect the way weight is distributed when you’re standing and can put added stress on the plantar fascia.
- Obesity. Excess pounds put extra stress on your plantar fascia.
- Occupations that keep you on your feet. Factory workers, teachers, and others who spend most of their work hours walking or standing on hard surfaces can be at increased risk of plantar fasciitis.
Lifestyle and home remedies
To reduce the pain of plantar fasciitis, try these self-care tips:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight can put extra stress on your plantar fascia.
- Choose supportive shoes. Buy shoes with a low to moderate heel, thick soles, good arch support, and extra cushioning. Don’t wear flats or walk barefoot.
- Don’t wear worn-out athletic shoes. Replace your old athletic shoes before they stop supporting and cushioning your feet.
- Change your sport. Try a low-impact sport, such as swimming or bicycling, instead of walking or jogging.
- Apply ice. Hold a cloth-covered ice pack over the area of pain for 15 minutes three or four times a day to help reduce pain and inflammation. Or try rolling a frozen bottle of water under your foot for an ice massage.
- Stretch your arches and calf muscles. Simple home exercises can stretch your plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles.
- Ultrasound and acupuncture. Ultrasound and acupuncture help to decrease inflammation in the body and break up scar tissue. Both will help speed up the healing process of your plantar fasciitis.
- Graston/scraping. Along with the other therapies, these can help to break up scar tissue and increase blood flow to the heel and bottom of the foot to speed up healing.
- Strengthen your foot. This isn’t to say an acute inflammation of the plantar fascia might not need time for recovery, but greater foot strength is the key to greater foot health, both when it comes to plantar fasciitis as well as with other repetitive stress injuries, including those typically associated with running.