Plantar Fasciitis

Also known as: Heel Pain

Plantar fasciitis is a painful swelling of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thick, fibrous layer of tissue. It covers the bones on the bottom of your foot. And it supports the foot bones in an arched position.

This can happen gradually or suddenly. It usually affects one foot at a time. Heel pain can be sharp, like a knife sticking into the bottom of your foot. You may feel pain after exercising, long-distance jogging, stair climbing, long periods of standing, or after standing up.

Risk factors include: non-active lifestyle, arthritis, diabetes, obesity or recent weight gain, flat foot, high arch. Wearing high heels, loose shoes, or shoes with poor arch support for long periods of time adds to the risk. This problem is commonly found in runners and dancers. It also found in people who stand on hard surfaces for long periods of time.

Foot pain from this condition is usually worse in the morning. But it improves with walking. By the end of the day there may be a dull aching. Treatment requires short-term rest and controlling swelling. It may take up to 9 months before all symptoms go away. Rarely, a steroid injection into the foot, or surgery, may be needed.

Home care

  • If you are overweight, lose weight to help healing.

  • Choose supportive shoes with good arch support and shock absorbency. Replace athletic shoes when they become worn out. Don’t walk or run barefoot.

  • Premade or custom-fitted shoe inserts may be helpful. Inserts made of silicone seem to be the most effective. Custom-made inserts can be provided by a podiatrist or foot specialist, physical therapist, or orthopedist.

  • Premade or custom-made night splints keep the heel stretched out while you sleep. They may prevent morning pain.

  • Avoid activities that stress the feet: jogging, prolonged standing or walking, contact sports, etc.

  • First thing in the morning and before sports, stretch the bottom of your feet. Gently flex your ankle so the toes move toward your knee.

  • Icing may help control heel pain. Apply an ice pack to the heel for 10-20 minutes as a preventive. Or ice your heel after a severe flare-up of symptoms. You may repeat this every 1-2 hours as needed.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. Anti-inflammatory pain medicines, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may work better than acetaminophen. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, physical therapist, or podiatrist or foot specialist as advised.

Call for an appointment if pain worsens or there is no relief after a few weeks of home treatment. Shoe inserts, a night splint, or a special boot may be required.

If X-rays were taken, you will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Foot swelling

  • Redness with increasing pain