Plantar fasciitis (pronounced fashy-eye-tis) is one of the top reasons we go to the doctor with foot or heel pain. It affects 10% of the population at some point in our lifetime, typically between the ages of 40 and 60. If you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis, rest assured that you’re not alone. There are more than 3 million cases in the U.S. each year.
Haven’t heard of plantar fasciitis? Consider yourself lucky. Read on to find out more about the most common type of heel pain and how to treat it.
Plantar Fasciitis: A Definition
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes. The band – the plantar fascia – supports the arch of your foot. As you walk or run, you can strain or cause repeated, small tears in your plantar fascia. Either of these will lead to the foot and heel pain that is common with the condition.
Where Does Plantar Fasciitis Hurt?
When you have plantar fasciitis, the most common symptom is a stabbing pain on the bottom of your heel. This pain is notably worse in the morning, and then lessens as the day continues and your foot and arch limber up. However, if you’ve been standing for a while or stand up from a seated position, you may notice pain again at that point.
Note: You may think you have plantar fasciitis if your arch hurts, but you probably don’t. The pain from plantar fasciitis is in your heel and not your arch. A sore arch can be a symptom of overpronation or not enough support in your shoes, but it isn’t plantar fasciitis.
Who is Affected by Plantar Fasciitis?
- Runners and ballet dancers
- People who are between the ages of 40 and 60
- People who are at least a little overweight, which puts extra pressure on your foot
- People who wear shoes with inadequate support
- People who have flat feet or high arches
- People who overpronate
- Those who stand on hard floors all day for work (teachers, factory workers, delivery workers, healthcare workers)
- Running the arch of your foot over a tennis ball or a water bottle
- Taking naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin)
- Using ice on your heel to relieve the inflammation
- Placing your foot in contrast baths – going back and forth between hot and cold water. You should always end with cold water as heat may make the pain worse
- Losing weight and then maintaining a healthy level
- Resting and staying off your feet as much as possible
These remedies will all alleviate the pain momentarily, but none of them will prevent the pain from coming back the next morning or fix the underlying problem. To do that, you need the right arch support in the form of insoles for plantar fasciitis. Only then will you reduce the stress and strain on your plantar fascia.
Do I Need Surgery?
Having plantar fasciitis doesn’t automatically mean you’ll need surgery to ease your pain. 95% of people with plantar fasciitis are able to recover within 6 months of onset with the use of home treatments like insoles for plantar fasciitis. I know that 6 months seems like a long time, but think about it—would you rather have treatment for 6 months or have to recover from surgery?
However, if 6 months has passed and nonsurgical treatment isn’t helping – and plantar fasciitis is affecting your daily activities – it may be time for surgery. If you are one of the few that requires surgical intervention, the primary surgery is called plantar fascia release. This involves cutting part of your plantar fascia ligament to release tension and relieve inflammation.
During the plantar fascia release surgery, your doctor will numb the area with a local anesthetic. Your surgery can either be performed endoscopically – with instruments inserted via a small incision – or through a traditional open surgery. If you require plantar fascia release, talk to your doctor about which option is best for you.
Following surgery, you will begin a gradual strengthening and flexibility program. Expect that you won’t be allowed to run or jump for at least 3 months post surgery to give your foot time to fully recover. 75% of people who have plantar fascia release surgery have less pain after the surgery than they did before.
If you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis on top of another reason for heel pain – a bone spur for example – you may want to think about having an additional surgery at the time of the plantar fascia release. One option would be to remove the heel spur. Another surgical option is the Gastrocnemius recession, or the surgical lengthening of the calf muscles (gastrocnemius). Tight calf muscles put extra stress on the plantar fascia. If you have gone through a year of calf stretches and you still have trouble flexing your foot, talk to your doctor about this surgical option.
How to Help Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
If you could see inside your foot, you would see a shelf on the inside of your heel bone, towards the rear of your arch. This is the “calcaneal shelf.” The plantar fascia connects to the bone just below the shelf. Providing structure to the heel bone will stabilize the foot, spread the fascia's shock-absorbing capacities evenly, and prevent and treat plantar fasciitis.
Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis – Treatment and Prevention
Support of the calcaneal shelf is the best way to treat and/or prevent plantar fasciitis.
- An orthotic insole provides support under the calcaneal shelf and controls pronation.
- Spreading the support forward into your arch provides an even weight distribution over the entire foot.
- Firm support will provide needed structure to the heel, arch, and fascia. The best insole for plantar fasciitis is firm, with a spring-like feeling. An accurate fit is necessary to ensure that the insole is completely comfortable.
When you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis, you want the pain to go away as quickly as possible. Find relief, treatment, and prevention through firm arch support with insoles for plantar fasciitis. Your feet will thank you for it.