What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

Picture of a woman holding her heel in pain.

The foot contains a ligament (the plantar fascia) that runs along its sole, connecting the heel to the toes. This ligament is responsible for supporting the arch and absorbing shocks. Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition that develops when the ligament becomes inflamed.

Plantar Fasciitis Causes

Plantar fasciitis commonly results from the repeated stretching and tearing of the plantar fascia, which can cause the ligament to become inflamed. In some instances, plantar fasciitis can develop as a result of another condition, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Plantar Fasciitis Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors that can make someone more likely to develop plantar fasciitis, including:

  • Being between the ages of 40 and 60
  • Having either flat feet or high arches
  • Being overweight
  • Wearing shoes with insufficient arch support or heel cushioning
  • Engaging in activities that place excess stress on the heels (for example, running and dancing), especially if on a surface that doesn’t absorb shocks
  • Suddenly increasing their activity level
  • Working a job that requires employees to spend significant amounts of time on their feet

It’s important to keep in mind that having one or more of these risk factors does not always lead to plantar fasciitis. Many people develop this condition without having any of the risk factors listed above, while others have multiple risk factors and never experience plantar fasciitis.

Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms

The primary symptom of plantar fasciitis is a stabbing pain within the bottom of the foot, close to the heel. This pain most commonly occurs when someone takes their first few steps after having remained in place for an extended amount of time (for example, after they’ve woken up and gotten out of bed or stood up after sitting). Once the person starts moving around more, the pain will typically subside.

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

Physicians often recommend conservative techniques to treat plantar fasciitis. This may include:

  • Taking pain medication
  • Icing the heel
  • Stretching
  • Wearing orthotics
  • Using a walking boot, a cane, or crutches
  • Wearing splints overnight
  • Attending physical therapy
  • Either modifying or entirely avoiding activities that cause pain

More advanced cases of plantar fasciitis may require corticosteroid injections, shock wave therapy, or ultrasonic tissue repair. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to either lengthen the gastroc tendon (which can relieve tension in the Achilles tendon) or detach the plantar fascia ligament from the heel bone.

Where to Go for Plantar Fasciitis Treatment Near You

North Carolina Orthopaedic Clinic has been offering first-rate treatment to residents of Durham, NC, and surrounding areas since 2003. Our fellowship-trained physicians focus on specific areas of the body, including the feet and ankles, so you can trust that you’ll receive the specialized care you deserve.

If you think you might have plantar fasciitis and you’d like to consult with one of the experts on our team, contact North Carolina Orthopaedic Clinic today. We’re open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we’re pleased to offer same- and next-day scheduling to patients requiring prompt care.