Plantar fasciitis

Also known as: Heel pain

What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a common condition marked by pain at the heel and/or along the arch of the foot. Pain often feels sharp at the base of the heel and increases when the big toe flexes up. Such pain is classically worse when standing after having been seated for a while. People typically report pain in the morning that lessens in the middle of the day and worsens by the end. Symptoms often increase during or after activity such as walking or running, and may cause an antalgic gait (a gait that develops to avoid pain).

Who gets it?
An estimated 10 percent of the population gets plantar fasciitis over the course of their lifetime. It is the most common complaint of foot pain seen by health care providers. Risk factors for plantar fasciitis may include tight ankles, restricted big toe mobility, working on your feet most of the day, or a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or higher.

What are the causes?
An increase in activity, such as ramping up a training program or starting a walking plan, after a period of inactivity may cause plantar fasciitis. Starting a new job that requires more walking or standing may also irritate tissues.

How do I treat it?
Plantar fasciitis symptoms often resolve on their own after several months. No single treatment works best for everyone, but there are many treatment options you can try.

  • Give your feet a rest. Cut back on activities that make your affected foot hurt. Try not to walk or run on hard surfaces.
  • To reduce pain and swelling, ice your heel. Consider taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
  • Do toe stretches, calf stretches and towel stretches several times a day, especially first thing in the morning. (For towel stretches, pull on both ends of a rolled towel placed under the ball of your foot.)
  • Get a new pair of comfortable shoes with good arch support. Firm, over-the-counter inserts may be used for two to three months while initial symptoms calm down. Use inserts in both shoes, even if only one foot hurts.
  • See a doctor if symptoms do not subside with after a month of self-treatments. A doctor may recommend physical therapy or a night split to help manage symptoms.