Plantar Fasciitis: What Is, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

April 2022

Plantar fasciitis is a condition in which the tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, the plantar fascia becomes inflamed. This usually causes pain, discomfort or a burning sensation in the bottom of the foot, especially after waking up or following physical activity, like walking or running.

This condition is more common in women who wear high heels for prolonged periods, runners, and people who are overweight.  

Treatment for plantar fasciitis usually lasts for about one year to 18 months and it normally includes the use of analgesics, anti-inflammatory medication, and physiotherapy.

Main symptoms

The most characteristic symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain in the middle region of the heel when stepping on that foot, however other symptoms can also appear, like:

  • Pain in the bottom of the foot that gets worse when wearing high heels or running;
  • Burning sensation on the bottom of the foot;
  • Tingling sensation when pressing the bottom of the foot.

Symptoms are related to the thickening of the plantar fascia due to inflammation and the presence of fibrosis and calcification.

Diagnosis is usually confirmed by a doctor or specialist through symptom assessment and examination of the foot. Imaging tests like x-rays do not visibly show fasciitis, but they can be used to rule out other conditions. 

What causes plantar fascitis 

The causes of plantar fasciitis are normally related to long walks or runs when using very hard shoes. Plantar fasciitis may also be related to the person's foot being very flat, or it can happen as a result of being overweight. These factors altogether can contribute to an inflammation of the plantar fascia, which, if not treated, can cause intense pain.

Regular use of high heels leads to a decrease in mobility in the Achilles tendon, which can also lead to fasciitis. It's also common for a heel spur to additionally be present when there is fasciitis.  

Treatment options

Treatment for plantar fasciitis can be done with anti-inflammatory medication, under the supervision of a doctor. Overall treatment is aimed at reducing inflammation in the area, improving blood flow and breaking up any nodules that may have formed in the tendons.

Other useful tips for treating plantar fasciitis include:

  • Applying a cold compress to the bottom of the feet for 15 minutes, twice a day;
  • Use of a special insole as recommended by an orthopedist or physiotherapist;
  • Stretching the calf to stretch the bottom of the foot and the calf muscle. This can be done by standing on a slightly inclined surface, like a ramp, until you feel your calf muscle stretching. Hold this position for at least one minute, and repeat three to four times.
  • Use comfortable shoes that support the feet adequately, and avoid hard shoes.

This condition is very common in runners due to shoes that are not suitable for running. Usually, it is recommended that you use the same running shoes for only 600 km (372 miles), and then change to different ones. However, you can still use the old running shoes for daily activities.

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Edited by Tua Saude editing team in April 2022. Clinical review completed by Marcelle Pinheiro - Physiotherapist in April 2022.

References

  • DA SILVA, Rafael Henrique; PONTIN, José Carlos B.; COSTA, Thiago R. Manual de Exercícios e Orientações para Pacientes com Fasciíte Plantar. Acta Fisiatr. 2014;21(2):75-79. Vol 21. 2 ed; 75-79, 2014
  • Revista Brasileira de Ortopedia. Talalgias: fascite plantar. FERREIRA, Ricardo C. Vol 49. 3 ed; 213-217, 2014
Clinical review:
Marcelle Pinheiro
Physiotherapist
Physiotherapist degree provided by the University of Estácio de Sá (Brazil). Licensed to practice under CREFITO #170751.