While the unusual name might give you the impression that it’s a rare condition, plantar fasciitis is actually the number one cause of heel pain. It occurs when your plantar fascia (a dense strip of shock-absorbing tissue that runs along your sole) swells and thickens in response to being damaged. Left untreated, plantar fasciitis can severely limit your mobility.
If you have a sore area on the bottom of your foot by your heel bone that’s agonising to walk on, you may have developed plantar fasciitis. The pain can be highly unpleasant and intense – a stabbing sensation in the back of the foot. That’s why it’s crucial to visit a foot specialist quickly if you think you’re suffering from this debilitating condition.
Risk Factors for Plantar Fascia Damage
The NHS estimates that a staggering four out of five cases of heel pain are caused by plantar fasciitis. In other words, 80% of patients with painful heels exhibit plantar fascia damage. When you take into account the numerous factors that increase the chances of this vital tissue being torn or aggravated, it’s easy to see why plantar fasciitis is so prevalent.
- Ageing – the plantar fascia deteriorates over time.
- Obesity – excess weight puts extra pressure on the tissue.
- Poor foot and ankle function – flat feet, high arches, tight Achilles tendons and an abnormal gait can all increase the strain the plantar fascia is under.
- Flat shoes – unsupportive footwear with thin soles doesn’t cushion the tissue.
- Intense activity – exercise may lead to plantar fascia injuries.
- Urban living – treading on hard surfaces can hurt the plantar fascia.
Don’t Put Up with the Pain
Plantar fasciitis is usually most painful when you get up in the morning. At that point, your feet are stiff and the damaged tissue hasn’t yet warmed up. The dreaded ‘first-step pain’ casts a shadow over the start of each day.
Although your heel is likely to feel slightly better as the day wears on, don’t be tempted to put up with the problem. Delaying treatment for plantar fasciitis leads to greater pain and longer recovery times. In addition, you increase your risk of developing a limp.
Effective Plantar Fasciitis Treatment
There are no quick fixes for plantar fasciitis; the damaged tissue needs to heal, and that can take up to a year. However, you can speed up the process and soothe the pain. To protect the damaged tissue, don’t walk barefoot, avoid hard floors and wear supportive, cushioned shoes (such as trainers). Reduce the tissue’s swelling with an anti-inflammatory cream or ice pack.
Another tip is to perform stretching and strengthening exercises. You could try sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you, holding both ends of a rolled-up towel, placing it on the ball of your foot and gently pulling it towards you a little, without bending your knee. Hold that position for up to 30 seconds. When you’re sitting on a chair, spread the towel out on the floor, grip it with your toes and draw it closer to you.
What’s more, at our London podiatry clinics, we can use cutting-edge gait analysis techniques to determine whether abnormalities with your feet or style of walking are leading to plantar fascia damage. We can then prescribe and fit tailor-made orthotics (special insoles for your shoes) designed to relieve heel pain and reduce the pressure on the damaged tissue. In addition, we can identify which foot exercises will be most beneficial for you.
For specialist plantar fasciitis treatment from a London podiatrist, please call Feet By Pody today on 0207 099 6657 or book your appointment online.