Every day we ask a lot of our feet. We stand, walk, and run without a thought to the daily stress and strain that they absorb. Supporting the human body can take a toll on the feet, and this is never more apparent than in a condition called plantar fasciitis. Plantar fascia is the thick band of connective tissue that connects the ball of the foot with the heel. It also supports the arch and provides overall stability in the foot. When this connective tissue becomes torn, strained, or inflamed plantar fasciitis can develop.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis affects one in ten adults in their lifetime. The plantar fascia is a thick tissue that connects the ball of the foot to the heel and also supports the arch of the foot. When this muscle becomes strained or compressed, severe pain can result and become chronic. Heels can actually develop new bone and create painful heel spurs—bony projections that cause intense pain. This chronic pain condition can impact life every day, and if left untreated can become severe and require surgery.
Major plantar fasciitis symptoms are:
- Stiffness or soreness in the whole foot, especially in the morning
- Swelling and redness
- Pain in the heel and the arch
- Flat feet or high arches
- Burning or tenderness in the soles of the feet
- Difficulty going up or down stairs
Left untreated, the heels can develop painful bony spurs, a growth of bone in the heel that presses painfully into the soles.
What are major plantar fasciitis causes?
Plantar fasciitis is caused mainly by one or more of the following:
- Poorly fitting or unsupportive footwear
- Excessive exercise on hard surfaces
- Improper or non-existent warm-up
- Not enough rest of the feet
The leading cause of plantar fasciitis is stress or strain on the plantar fascia that causes tiny tears in the ligament. These tears cause inflammation and pain, which makes walking or other activities difficult, especially in the morning. Not warming up or using proper conditioning techniques are other causes of plantar fasciitis, as is starting a new physical activity after long periods of rest or inactivity. These activities may cause microscopic tears that are only found once a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis is made.
People with very flat feet or very high arches are prone to plantar fasciitis due to the shortening or lengthening of the tissue and the strain that causes.
For athletes, training repetitively on hard surfaces with improper footwear can cause plantar fasciitis. A rapid increase in the intensity of a workout, or the length of a workout can also trigger painful symptoms. Some patients report that symptoms worsen over time, but others say that their symptoms occurred suddenly.
Who is at risk?
Men between the ages of 40 and 70 are most likely to experience the pain of plantar fasciitis, but people of all ages can develop this condition. Some behaviors can increase the risk. A genetic history or family record of plantar fasciitis is a primary risk, as is simply getting older.
Although everyone who walks on the planet is capable of developing plantar fasciitis, there are a few specific risk factors that can increase your chances of developing it.