Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. If you have plantar fasciitis, there are things you can do to help relieve the pain and heal your foot.
What is plantar fasciitis?
The plantar fascia is a piece of strong and thick tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. It connects the heel bone to the toes, creating the foot's arch.
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, either through overstretching, overuse or a medical condition.
It can be caused by:
- playing sports that put stress on the heel bone, like running, dance and aerobics
- flat-footed or high arches
- being middle-aged or older
- being overweight
- spending a lot of time on your feet
- wearing shoes with poor arch support or stiff soles
Plantar fasciitis is often associated with a heel spur which is a spike of bone poking out from the heel bone, but many people have heel spurs without any pain.
The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain under the heel, which can be dull or sharp — like a knife sticking into your foot. The foot sole may ache or burn and your heel may be slightly swollen.
The pain is often worse:
- in the morning, as you take your first steps
- after prolonged standing or sitting
- after intense activity
To check whether you have plantar fasciitis, your doctor will probably ask you some questions, for example, about your symptoms, the type of work you do and your lifestyle.
Also, it's likely they'll perform a physical exam to check the arches of your feet and to see whether there is any redness, swelling, tenderness, stiffness or tightness.
An X-ray or ultrasound scan is sometimes needed to rule out other possible causes of heel pain.
Initially, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- pain-relief medicine, such as ibuprofen paracetamol
- physiotherapy with specific stretching exercises
- resting your foot as much as possible
- shoes with good support and cushioning
- night splints to wear while sleeping
- heel pads and arch supports in your shoes (orthotics)
- an icepack applied to your foot for 10 to 20 minutes up to 4 times daily
If these measures don't work, your doctor may give you steroid injections in your heel. Wearing orthotics, having physiotherapy or wearing a splint at night can also help. Very occasionally, people have surgery to try to fix it.
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Last reviewed: February 2019