What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a very common issue that many people have to deal with, at least occasionally. This orthopedic problem is not a life-threatening disease, but it sure is an annoying and painful experience. If you are among those affected by this condition, you’ll be happy to know that with the right treatment, the issue should go away in a few months. It’s important to know what you’re dealing with, so let’s take a deeper look and see what this condition is, what causes it, how it can be treated, and what you can do today to make living with plantar fasciitis easier.
1. The Anatomy
In order to understand what this condition is, we need to briefly discuss the anatomy of the foot. As you well know, the foot is composed of many big and small bones, which are connected with tendons and ligaments. The plantar fascia is a foot tissue, a ligament connecting the heel and the front of the foot. It’s located at the very bottom of the foot, and as such, along with supporting the arch of your foot, its most important role is to absorb shock from walking. The structure of the plantar fascia is somewhat alike to a web, creating a great shock-absorbing cushion for your bones and muscles. You can think of it as the tire around the wheel of your car – every slight bump and hole would seriously damage the wheel construction were it not for the big, cushioning rubber tire. So, since plantar fascia plays an integral role in walking, when something goes wrong, this basic movement pattern becomes a pain.
2. The Condition
As one of the most frequent orthopedic complaints, plantar fasciitis is not a complex ailment. However, that doesn’t make it any less painful or serious. This condition can affect your life in a very significant way since basic movement can become quite uncomfortable. Walking, running, jumping, and even simply standing can become tough tasks for people who suffer from plantar fasciitis, and that’s how this relatively simple condition starts a snowball effect of a bad mood, missed work, and sometimes even serious knee, hip, and lower back damage. So, what exactly is plantar fasciitis?
In essence, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the foot ligament. Some medical professionals argue that the condition is better described as tissue degeneration than an inflammation, but the actual difference between the two is mainly relevant if you’re considering corticosteroid treatment for chronic plantar fasciitis. In any case, the condition develops as small tears appear in the web-like tissue of the ligament, causing irritation, pain, and stiffness. This condition appears if the plantar fascia suffers too much stress and tension, whether from high impact activities like running, bad shoes, or too much weight.
2.1. The Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
The most prominent symptom of plantar fasciitis is a pain that occurs with the first morning steps. The pain develops gradually, and with time, it worsens. Patients have used many adjectives to describe the pain, but there are two major descriptions for the type of pain people experience with plantar fasciitis: the pain is either dull or sharp. The aching always appears with the first couple of steps in the morning, but as you get up and move more, it may decrease. The pain can also appear after long periods sitting or lying down, or after extended periods of standing. What’s interesting is that normally exercising isn’t painful, but the ache sets in afterwards.
2.2. The Repercussions
Plantar fasciitis is a painful experience in and of itself, and that can have a great influence on your daily life.
Plantar fasciitis can be both acute – caused by a specific injury or prolonged period of excess stress on the ligament, or chronic – where the condition gets worse over time. Without treatment, acute plantar fasciitis can last anywhere between 6 weeks and 2 years, with the possibility for the condition to become chronic.
Ignoring the issue won’t do you any good. While the condition may go away on its own after 6 weeks or more, even with the condition gone you may be left with permanent consequences. One of the most common ways that people who don’t get treatment for plantar fasciitis deal with the pain when they want to tough it out is changing the way they walk with the goal of minimizing the pain. This can cause back, hip, knee, or foot problems, since these parts of the body need to heavily compensate for the abnormal stepping pattern.
However, with the right treatment, plenty of rest, and good shoes, you can get rid of plantar fasciitis in a couple of months. Once the inflammation is over, you can continue your normal activities with no pain, and no leftover symptoms.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis can be caused by many different factors, and some patients never really find out for sure what caused the onset of the condition in their case. The general cause of the condition is excess stress on the plantar fascia that the foot tissue can’t handle. This can be caused by impact, tension, improper stepping mechanics, or too much weight. Here are some of the most common reasons why plantar fasciitis may appear.
1. Exercise Injury
Certain types of exercise that put a lot of stress on the foot are a common cause of the plantar fascia inflammation. This condition is common among athletes who run, jump or walk for a long time, and it’s particularly common among joggers, sprinters, and dancers. That’s because each step taken as part of these activities has a high impact on the bottom of the foot, and additionally, the athletes rarely take sufficient brakes in between training sessions for the plantar fascia to recover. It’s of utmost importance for athletes who do these sports to wear good, high-quality athletic shoes that give complete support to the foot and absorb some of the shocks that come with the activity.
2. Prolonged Standing or Walking
Standing for a long time can also be the cause of plantar fasciitis, especially when combined with bad posture or flat feet. That’s why many teachers, factory workers, hairdressers, and other professionals who need to stand on the job often have issues with plantar fasciitis. On the other hand, professionals whose work requires a lot of walking on a daily basis, such as post-delivery people, gardeners, orderlies, and waitpersons, are also at an increased risk from plantar fasciitis. As with exercising, good, supportive shoes are of utmost importance for occupations that require standing or walking for extended periods.
3. Foot Anatomy
Both flat feet and high arches have an immense effect on how the weight is distributed on the foot. This puts additional stress on the plantar fascia, so people with either of these anatomical issues often have problems with the inflammation of the foot. Even though traditionally doctors considered flat feet the main cause of plantar fasciitis, the condition does, in fact, does occur to people with high arches equally as much. Whether the arch of the foot is high or low, the way that the fascia bends with each step puts an extra strain on the bottom of the foot. While people with typical feet can get plantar fasciitis as well, the issue is particularly common among people with an atypical foot arch anatomy. In both cases, special shoes or orthotics (medical correctional insoles) are highly recommended for fixing the anatomical issues.
4. Bad Shoes
As you go about your day, your feet need support when walking and standing, especially on hard surfaces like pavement and hardwood flooring. Good shoes that offer solid arch support are paramount in keeping your feet healthy. Wearing shoes that offer bad support or have soles that are too hard or too soft can cause many issues, one of which is plantar fasciitis. Good shoes need to be able to absorb some of the shocks that naturally occur with every step. They shouldn’t be completely flat, but high heels aren’t a good option either – a slightly raised heel with a cushy (but not too soft and unsupportive) sole is a great pick, both for prevention and for reducing pain caused by plantar fasciitis. One of the most important factors in shoe stability is how well they resist twisting. Your shoes should be flexible enough to bend as you walk (from toes to heel), but they should never let or make your feet twist side to side. In other words, it should have good torsional strength and prevent your feet from pronating.
5. Age and Weight
Finally, age and weight are also risk factors for developing plantar fasciitis. Generally, the condition rarely appears in people younger than 40 years old, so lower flexibility of the ligament possibly comes with age. Furthermore, excess weight puts additional stress on the foot tissue, causing many issues including plantar fasciitis.
How to Treat Plantar Fasciitis?
If you feel that your foot pain isn’t an isolated case, but in fact comes from the inflammation of your plantar fascia, you should seek medical attention. A doctor will likely try to solve the issue with common, non-invasive treatment first, and if the pain doesn’t go away, they might opt for more hands-on treatment.
1. Common Treatment Methods
The most common type of treatment that helps most plantar fasciitis patients recover in a couple of months is quite simple and conservative. It includes resting, and stretching and icing the area.
If needed, a physical therapist will recommend a series of exercises that will help stretch and release tension from your plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.
If you’d like to speed up your recovery, your physical therapist or doctor can recommend a couple of aids. These include night splints to keep your ligaments and tendons stretched overnight, and orthotics or shoes designed for plantar fasciitis, which will distribute the pressure on your feet more evenly.
2. If Treatment isn’t Helping
If you’ve been keeping up your conservative treatment, but after several months it doesn’t seem to yield results, your doctor may recommend invasive procedures. These include steroid medication injections, ultrasonic tissue treatment, and surgery.
How to Relieve Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis treatment takes time, and that can be frustrating to people who suffer from foot pain on a daily basis. Proper treatment and correcting the cause of plantar fasciitis are important, and in the meantime, you can use some natural remedies to ease your pain. Here’s how plantar fasciitis is treated.
Rest is an irreplaceable way of recovery when it comes to plantar fasciitis. You simply must let the foot tissue recover and regenerate on its own, and it can’t do that if it’s experiencing stress due to walking or running. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should become bedridden, limiting your activity to only the essentials will greatly speed up your recovery. During the day, you should take frequent breaks. If you’re in public, you can simply sit down, but if you can, you’ll greatly benefit from lying down and raising your feet.
2. Well-built Shoes
When you find out you suffer from plantar fasciitis, your first order of business should be getting an appropriate pair of shoes for daily use. Shoes designed for plantar fascia pain should offer good support to that part of your foot, they should have a low or moderate heel, thick and firm soles, extra cushioning, and great arch support. They should prevent your feet from pronating, and offer good side-to-side stability. You should avoid walking barefoot, even at home, because the firm surface of the floor can amplify your pain. Wearing completely flat shoes, such as flip-flops, slippers, or slip-on shoes is not recommended, so you should pick a pair of shoes with at least slightly raised heel. The soles mustn’t be too firm or too soft – they should be cushy but still offer good support.
3. Replace Old Shoes
Wearing worn-out shoes, whether those are tennis shoes or your formal loafers, will only promote foot pain. As shoes wear down, they lose their shape and firmness, offering less and less support. Though this goes for any pair of shoes, it’s extremely important for running shoes, which should be replaced before you hit 500 miles in them.
4. Low-impact Sports
As we mentioned before, plantar fasciitis is very common in runners. As rest is a very important part of the treatment of this condition, you should try to stay away from activities that have such a high impact on your feet. Instead, you could try your hand at a low-impact activity, such as swimming, bicycling, or even weightlifting.
5. Apply an Ice Pack
If your feet start aching and you have an ice pack (or even ice cubes or a bottle of icy water) on hand, you can hold the cold pack on the painful area for about 10 to 15 minutes. Icing will give you immediate relief, and if you do it three times a day, it can even promote healing and reduce inflammation. You should always ice your feet if they start swelling.
Stretching is an important part of your therapy, and it can even give you immediate relief if you’re in pain. You should consult your physical therapist for the exact stretches that best suit your case, but you can also find some good examples online. Remember to only stretch as much as you’re comfortable. While stretching should feel mildly uncomfortable due to tensing your muscles and ligaments, it should never be painful.
7. Pain Relieving Medication
If nothing else works and you feel pain even after icing and stretching, you may opt for some of the over the counter pain relievers. Ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) based medications can be a great help. However, you should beware of the possible side effects of these medications, and take them with caution and only when truly necessary.
Great Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis We Recommend
Plantar fasciitis is a complex condition, but in its core is the excessive shock that the foot tissue can’t handle – and that’s where your shoes step in. One of the most important steps toward getting better is wearing great shoes that will support your feet well and prevent further damage. Here’s what we recommend.
1. Dress Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis
Good looking dress shoes don’t need to be uncomfortable. You can work and attend formal events without having to suffer through the pain if you read our dress shoes for plantar fasciitis reviews that contain models with well-cushioned and have high-quality soles for maximum shock absorption.
2. Hiking Boots for Plantar Fasciitis
Hiking is a lot of fun, and it’s one of the best ways to return to nature and experience the world in its raw form. However, it’s no fun at all if your feet hurt all the way through. With well-built hiking boots for plantar fasciitis, your trips to the mountainside will be as wonderful as ever!
3. Sandals for Plantar Fasciitis
Nobody likes spending hot summer days in warm shoes – you need something that lets your feet breathe. Luckily, sandals for plantar fasciitis can be very comfortable if you pick the right pair!
4. Slippers for Plantar Fasciitis
Need something to just hop in and walk to the store, or a pair of warm slippers to wear around the house? Walking barefoot is not recommended if you suffer from plantar fasciitis, but the best slippers for plantar fasciitis is fair game!
5. Running Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis
Running is one of the most common causes of plantar fasciitis. While taking a break from running would be ideal, it’s not a realistic option for many people. The best alternative is checking the models in our running shoes for plantar fasciitis reviews that will truly absorb the shock that’s created with each step – and keep your feet snug and protected.
6. Plantar Fasciitis Night Splints
Plantar fasciitis night splints reviews will show you one of the common ways of treatment for plantar fasciitis. These convenient contraptions keep your ligaments extended overnight, providing a way to stretch – passively. Get a good pair of night splints for faster recovery.
7. Work Boots for Plantar Fasciitis
No matter if you work on-site or you simply love the way they look – work boots are heavy-duty, but they can be a bit uncomfortable. Getting to know about the work boots for plantar fasciitis reviews that provide sufficient support and shock absorption is a must, especially if you’ll spend 8 hours a day in them!
FAQ about Plantar Fasciitis
1. How long does it take for plantar fasciitis to heal?
How long the condition lasts differs from case to case. Lighter cases can get better in as little as 6 weeks, but people with a badly hurt plantar fascia may need to continue treatment for as long as 18 months. While there are, of course, more and less severe cases, one of the biggest differences between patients who heal in less than two months and those that keep having issues for a year and a half is their own approach to treatment. There is also the chance for plantar fasciitis to become chronic, in which case it flares up and recedes every now and then for years after the initial inflammation began. Chronic cases are far less common, and if you’re suffering from plantar fasciitis for the first time, you can make sure your condition doesn’t come back if you take treatment seriously and let your feet heal completely before putting additional strain on them.
Plantar fasciitis recovery requires a lot of rest and allows very limited use of the foot. For example, athletes that are diagnosed with plantar fasciitis must take a break from running, jumping, and other high impact activities, which is not always a viable option for sports professionals. With very well built tennis shoes and as much rest as possible, accompanied by other treatment methods, these patients can recover, but it will inevitably take a longer time.
2. Can plantar fasciitis go away on its own?
In cases where the plantar fascia has a mild inflammation, and the patient decides to simply give their feet a lot of rest and occasional ice treatment, the issue can go away on its own. In fact, medical treatment for most mild cases is very simple and conservative and includes plenty of rest, icing, stretching, and well-built shoes.
However, it’s not a good idea to leave the condition untreated. Patients who decide to “tough it out” often end up much worse off, because they didn’t let their feet have sufficient rest for recovery. Pushing yourself to keep walking or running when your feet hurt is very harmful, and potentially it can lead to very severe and possibly irreparable damage. The most common issues that arise with untreated plantar fasciitis are ankle, knee, hip, and lower back deformations. As the patient tries to continue walking while their feet are in pain, they shift their weight and position their feet in an incorrect way, trying to compensate for the pain. As a result, the other body parts need to take a hit and compensate for the pain, potentially resulting in severe injury.
3. Is walking good for plantar fasciitis?
No. Ignoring the pain and continuing your daily activities will not help you recover since the most important part of plantar fasciitis recovery is rest. However, that doesn’t mean you have to become bedridden. Light activities are permitted, and a short walk here and there is not a bad thing. However, you should make sure you have good, supportive shoes to help reduce the impact to your plantar fascia as much as possible!
4. Can plantar fasciitis cause knee or hip pain?
If you try to tough it out and continue walking, running, or jumping when you have plantar fasciitis, there’s a chance you will subconsciously shift your weight to the ball of your foot to avoid stepping on your painful heel or arch. In turn, compromised posture can lead to knee and hip damage. Because of this, it’s very important to follow your treatment plan as closely as possible, and be aware of your posture when standing, walking, and running. If your feet hurt and you need to shift your weight to avoid pain, you should try to sit down immediately, and stretch or put an ice pack on your feet if you can.
5. Can compression socks help with plantar fasciitis?
A good flow of oxygenated blood can promote healing, whatever you’re dealing with. Considering that compression socks are designed to promote blood flow in your legs, these can be a good way to speed up your recovery. However, even though they can provide a bit of help and perhaps even pain relief, compression socks alone are not a sufficient treatment for plantar fasciitis. First and foremost, you should make sure you get plenty of rest and wear shoes that support your foot and absorb shock that is created with every step.
All in All
Plantar fasciitis is a painful ailment that many people go through at least once in their lifetimes. When dealing with foot ache, it’s important to stay focused and devoted to the treatment, even if at first it seems like it’s not helping. There are a couple of things you can do to relieve your foot ache as you feel it, but most importantly, you should make sure you get plenty of rest, stretch, and wear appropriate shoes for plantar fasciitis, and you will get better before you know it. Hang in there!