Plantar Fasciitis explained

Sometimes referred to as “policeman’s heel”, Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammatory condition that causes chronic pain in the heel of the foot, and sometimes the arch.

Symptoms

If you suffer from Plantar Fasciitis, your pain is likely the worst when you take your first steps out of bed in the morning. It is usually a sharp, stabbing pain at the bottom or front of the heel bone which is most severe after long periods of inactivity (sitting, driving or sleeping). Throughout the course of the day the pain typically diminishes, transforming into a lingering, dull ache. This common conditon often also affects athletes.

What are the main causes of Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis is primarily caused by a irregular foot function (usually over-pronation). Other contributing factors include:
• age
• weight gain
• jobs that require standing or walking for extended periods of time
• worn-out and/or unsupportive footwear
• Inactivity, sedentary lifestyle

The plantar fascia is a band of tissue under the foot running from your heel to your toes. In over-pronating feet, the fascia is excessively stretched with every step, which results in inflammation, irritation and pain where the fascia attaches to the heel bone. In some cases, the pain even extends into the arch of the foot. This perpetual pulling of the ligament at the calcaneal bone often leads to the development of a bony growth in the heel, called a heel spur.

As you rest (for example, when you’re asleep), the plantar fascia becomes shorter and tightens up. The moment you get up in the morning, all of your body weight goes straight to your feet, forcing the fascia to immediately stretch and lengthen which causes micro-tearing of the tissue. This is why pain is the most severe during your first few steps in the morning and also after pro-longed periods of rest.

Treatment solutions

Plantar Fasciitis can be treated with simple, non-surgical methods. The development of Plantar Fasciitis takes a while, however people only tend to pay attention to it when the pain has become significant. 

Generally, the longer the pain has been present, the longer it takes to resolve the heel problem. Although soft heel materials (e.g. gel pads) appear to cushion the heel, they do not address the biomechanical issue of foot support, which initially caused the problem. Therefore, with soft heel cushions, the painful heel tends to return.

However, when using orthotics (corrective arch supports) the foot will become stabilised and re-aligned. Orthotics correct the problem of excess pronation and over-stretching of the plantar fascia. The orthotics limit the micro-tearing of the plantar fascia, thereby decreasing the pain and treating the CAUSE of the problem. In addition to the use of foot orthotics, some simple stretching exercises are also very helpful. 

Other common (temporary treatment solutions include:

• Ice • Rest • Anti-inflammatories • Taping of the foot