Foot Health

Everything You Need to Know About Plantar Fasciitis

About one in 10 adults will experience plantar fasciitis during their lifetime. Learn more about this common foot condition and find out what symptoms to watch for, how it’s diagnosed and treatment options.

What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is irritation or inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is a ligament made up of three bands that originate in the heel bone and go through the arch of the foot and into the toe joints. The plantar fascia’s main job is to support your foot and provide shock absorption. Over time, you might get tiny tears due to repetitive stress and strain. Repeated irritation or inflammation can lead to the ligament becoming thicker. The thicker it gets, the harder it is to treat.

What causes this condition?
There are many things that can cause plantar fasciitis, including trauma or injury, participating in high-intensity physical activity, a rapid increase in physical activity, wearing non-supportive shoes or backless shoes, walking on uneven ground and even driving.

What factors increase a person’s risk of getting plantar fasciitis?
Almost anyone can get plantar fasciitis. But there are certain risk factors that make a person more susceptible, including being an active individual, participating in high-intensity activities, having an abnormal foot structure, being overweight or obese, working on uneven ground and being on your feet all day.

What are symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis can lead to pain in the heel or pain in the arch of your feet. But the most common symptom is pain within the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning that improves as you continue to walk. People might also experience this pain after sitting for a while and then standing up to walk. The first few steps are painful but when you continue to walk it starts to feel better.

How is plantar fasciitis diagnosed?
There are other foot conditions with symptoms that mimic plantar fasciitis. It’s important to see a foot doctor to get the right diagnosis. It starts with getting a history of your symptoms and a physical exam of your feet. Imaging may also come into play. X-rays can help your doctor look at your foot structure. An ultrasound may also be done to look at the soft tissue in your feet to tell your doctor the thickness of your plantar fascia ligament and determine how new the condition is and if there is a tear or rupture. In some cases, MRI may be used but this is mainly for people who aren’t improving after conservative care.

What are treatment options for plantar fasciitis?
There are many treatment options for plantar fasciitis ranging from conservative care to surgery:

  • Conservative treatments include stretching, physical therapy, supportive shoes, orthoses (external medical devices, such as braces or splints), icing, rest, anti-inflammatories/NSAIDs, cortisone injections, immobilization, platelet-rich plasma injections and extracorporeal shockwave therapy.
  •  If conservative treatments aren’t effective, many surgical treatment options are available. Minimally invasive surgical options include radiofrequency coblation (Topaz) and plantar fasciitis release (EPFR).
  • Open surgery is another more invasive surgical treatment option which usually consists of a plantar fascial release and removal of a heel spur. This is mostly used as a last resort and isn’t used very often because of the effectiveness of less-invasive surgical treatment options.

How long does it take to recover?
Everyone is different. It might take up to six months of conservative treatments to recover from plantar fasciitis. For some people, it’s a lot less, but for others it could take longer.

How can I prevent plantar fasciitis?
There are a few steps you can take to help prevent plantar fasciitis:

  • Wear supportive shoes – Look for shoes that provide the right amount of support, cushioning, stability and shock absorption for your feet.
  • Use orthotic devices – When used with a good pair of shoes, orthotics will give you the most support and stability. You can get both over-the-counter orthotics and custom orthotics. Over-the-counter orthotics are made for a more generic foot while custom ones are created for your feet.
  • Stretch regularly – Doing basic stretches on a regular basis can keep your plantar fascia ligament flexible. Talk to your podiatrist or a physical therapist if you need help creating a stretching plan.

Why should I seek treatment for plantar fasciitis at Edward-Elmhurst Health?
At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we truly listen to our patients. It helps us get an accurate history so we can make the appropriate diagnosis and create the most effective treatment plan. We want you to understand your condition and why treatment will help you get back to your daily activities. To learn more, visit us online or call 630-527-6363.