What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis can also be known as a heel spur although they are not strictly the same. A heel spur is a bony growth that occurs at the attachment of the plantar fascia to the heel bone (calcaneus). A heel spur can be present (through repetitive pulling of the plantar fascia) on a foot with no symptoms at all and a painful heel does not always have a heel spur present.
Signs and Symptoms?
- Heel pain, under the heel and usually on the inside, at the origin of the attachment of the fascia.
- Pain when pressing on the inside of the heel and sometimes along the arch.
- Pain is usually worse first thing in the morning as the fascia tightens up overnight. After a few minutes it eases as the foot gets warmed up
- As the condition becomes more severe the pain can get worse throughout the day if activity continues.
- Stretching the plantar fascia may be painful.
- Sometimes there may also be pain along the outside border of the heel. This may occur due to the offloading the painful side of the heel by walking on the outside border of the foot. It may also be associated with the high impact of landing on the outside of the heel if you have high arched feet.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
- The most common cause of plantar fasciitis is very tight calf muscles which leads to prolonged and / or high velocity pronation of the foot. This in turn produces repetitive over-stretching of the plantar fascia leading to possible inflammation and thickening of the tendon. As the fascia thickens it looses flexibility and strength.
- Some practitioners think overpronation can always be determined by the dropping and rolling in of the arch. This is not always the case. Sometimes it can only be seen with foot scans, especially if the patient has a high arched foot.
- Other causes include low arch or high arched feet (pes planus / cavus) and other bio-mechanical abnormalities including oversupination which should be assessed by a podiatrist / physical therapist.
- Excessive walking in footwear which does not provide adequate arch support has been attributed to plantar fasciitis. Footwear for plantar fasciitis – both prevention and treatment – should be flat, lace-up and with good arch support and cushioning.
- Overweight individuals are more at risk of developing the condition due to the excess weight impacting on the foot.
How can you treat Plantar Fasciitis
There is no single cure for plantar fasciitis. Whilst many treatments can be used to ease pain, in order to treat it effectively long-term, the cause of the condition must be corrected.
What can the athlete do?
- Rest until it is not painful. It can be very difficult to rest the foot as most people will be on their feet during the day for work. By walking on the painful foot you are continually aggravating the injury and increasing inflammation.
- A good plantar fasciitis taping technique can help support the foot relieving pain and helping it rest.
- Apply ice or cold therapy to help reduce pain and inflammation. Cold therapy can be applied regularly until symptoms have resolved.
- Plantar fasciitis exercises such as stretch
ing the plantar fascia is an important part of treatment and prevention. Simply reducing pain and inflammation alone is unlikely to result in long term recovery. The plantar fascia tightens up making the origin at the heel more susceptible to stress.
What a Sports Injury Professional can do?
- Perform gait analysis to determine if you overpronate or oversupinate and prescribe orthotics or insoles. An insole can restore normal foot biomechanics if overpronation is a problem.
- Tape the foot and instruct the athlete how to apply plantar fasciitis taping. This is an excellent way of allowing the foot to rest.
- Apply sports massage techniques to reduce the tension in the plantar fascia and also stretch the calf muscles.
- Use a corticosteriod injection – usually best combined with biomechanical correction with orthotics.
- X ray to see if there is any bone growth (calcification). An X-ray may be able to show bone growth which may be a cause of pain but research has shown that the presence of a bony growth does not necessarily mean the athlete will feel pain. Bony growth can worsen even after symptoms have completely resolved.