The pain in your foot could be plantar fasciitis, but do you know what to look out for?


What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is a common ailment, especially among runners, but it can affect anyone. It is a condition that affects the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot that attaches from the heel of the foot to the toes. If this gets strained it can become weak, inflamed and irritated, causing pain in your foot when you stand or walk. 

If you have persistent foot pain, please seek professional advice.

Signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis

  • stiffness, tenderness in the foot
  • pain in the heel
  • pain in the arch of the foot
  • discomfort, stiffness when first getting up in the morning  
  • discomfort when getting up from sitting down
  • pain can be dull, sharp or aching  
  • bottom of the foot can feel tender to the touch

What causes plantar fasciitis?

There are several things that can cause plantar fasciitis.

The main causes are age, obesity, a change in distance you are running or if you have a job that involves standing up for a long period of time. Inadequate footwear can also cause it. In a few cases, plantar fasciitis can be caused by conditions such as reactive arthritis. 

The condition affects both men and women, although it seems to be more common in women.

You can also develop plantar fasciitis if you have very high arches or very flat feet. Tightness in the achilles tendon, calf muscle or hamstrings can also play a part. 

Tight muscles will eventually lead to damage of non-force generating tissues like bone, ligaments, and fascia.

Treatment of plantar fasciitis

There are several treatments available for plantar fasciitis: 

  • massage - to ease some of the discomfort in the foot as well as release tension in the calf.
  • strapping and taping - to support the area of pain and take some of the pressure off the plantar fascia.
  • stretches - stretching exercises performed three to five times a day can help elongate the heel cord
  • applying ice before you go to bed to reduce inflammation
  • rolling a massage ball, golf ball or tennis ball under the foot
  • wearing a special sock - sometimes known as a night splint - can help gently stretch the foot. They are expensive to buy but you can make your own
  • ensure you have good supportive shoes
  • warm-up before doing any exercise and ice the heel afterwards

Ibuprofen can help relieve some of the pain, in some more serious cases, cortisone injections may be recommended or shockwave therapy. New research is emerging about the impact of acupuncture on the condition, but it's too early to say how effective this is.  

Six exercises to help prevent and treat plantar fasciitis

Stretching and strengthening exercises will help reduce plantar fasciitis. These are examples of general exercises, your therapist may recommend additional exercises specific to you and your condition. 

Complete these a few times each day (you don't have to do them all at the same time!) - you should feel a slight pull/stretch, if you feel pain, stop immediately and seek advice. If you are not sure show to do any of the stretches, please speak to your therapist and they will demonstrate them for you.

1. Rolling - roll a ball under your foot whilst seated or standing.

2. Toe stretch exercise - sit and extend your affected leg so that your heel is on the floor. Reach down with your hand and pull your big toe up and back. Hold for 30 seconds. 

3. Calf stretch - stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall. Place the leg you want to stretch about a step behind your other leg. Keep your back heel on the floor and bend your front knee until you feel a stretch in the back leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat. 

4. Plantar fascia and calf stretch - stand on a step (hold on!), slowly lower your heel down over the edge. Feel a stretch in your foot and calf. Hold for 30 seconds. Bring heel up. Repeat. 

5. Exercise band stretch - place an exercise band - or rolled towel - under the ball of your foot, holding it at both ends. Gently pull the band towards you keeping the knee straight. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat.

6. Toe curls using a towel - sit down and place your foot on a towel on the floor, scrunch the towel toward you with your toes, then push away. Repeat. To make this more challenging, add a weighted object on the towel. 

Time frames for recovery

The prognosis for plantar fasciitis is usually good. There is no specific time frame as to when this condition heels, it can range from two months to two years, but with regular therapeutic treatments and stretches you should feel some relief from the signs and symptoms.

Chronic plantar fasciitis (lasting over one year) can develop into plantar fasciosis due to scarring of the plantar fascia. It becomes increasingly painful due to poor blood supply to the scarred tissues. The treatment for this condition differs to that for plantar fasciitis. 

What should I do? 

If you think you have signs of plantar fasciitis, speak to one of our therapists for assessment, treatment and advice. The quicker it gets identified and treated the quicker you should get back on your feet again.