The “Plantar fascia” is a fibrous band running from the under surface of your heel to the ball of your foot. “Plantar fasciitis” is a painful inflammation of this tissue caused by chronic over stretching and mild tearing.
Plantar fasciitis is commonly associated with fallen arches of the foot. To understand how this happens, cup your hand to make a “C” shape. This represents a foot with a high arch. Imagine a band running from your fingertips to your wrist. This represents the plantar fascia. Now, straighten your fingers to simulate what happens when the arch “falls.” When this happens in your foot, the plantar fascia is stretched and can begin to tear away from your heel.
Plantar fasciitis affects 10% of the population and is more common in women. Approximately one fourth of patients have the problem in both feet at the same time. People who place excessive stress on their feet by being overweight, standing for long periods, or participating in endurance sports are more likely to develop the condition as well. Shoes without adequate arch supports, including sandals or going barefoot, increase your chances of developing plantar fasciitis. Wearing high-heeled shoes or boots may contribute to the problem.
The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain in the heel or arch when standing up after a period of inactivity, particularly first thing in the morning. When you are sleeping, the arch is in a relaxed or shortened state, and the plantar fascia is able to heal. When you stand up first thing in the morning, you stretch the fascia, once again tearing it away from its attachment on the heel. The condition may progress to the point that you experience pain throughout the day, even while resting. The pain often eases after you walk for a period of time, only to redevelop. You may notice some tenderness when you touch your heel, and you probably have tight calf and hamstring muscles as well.
Plantar fasciitis can be a frustrating condition, often lasting 18 months or more if left untreated. Fortunately, you may recover more quickly with proper treatment. One of the most important things that you can do is to make sure that you are wearing shoes with good arch supports on a consistent basis. A period of rest may be necessary to help you recover. Runners may need to temporarily decrease mileage or switch to less stressful activities like swimming, cycling, or using an elliptical machine. A splint or “Strassburg sock” worn at night will help to keep your plantar fascia in a stretched position while it is healing.