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Plantar fasciitis

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Plantar fasciitis is when the tissue on the bottom of your foot (the plantar fascia) becomes inflamed.
  • This can cause heel pain and discomfort when walking.
  • You may be at risk of plantar fasciitis if you do physical activity that places stress on your heel.
  • If you think you have plantar fasciitis, see your doctor.
  • Your doctor can suggest treatments, such as stretches, pain medication and supportive footwear.

What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis happens when your plantar fascia becomes damaged. The plantar fascia is a piece of strong, thick tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot. It connects your heel bone to the toes, creating the arch of the foot.

Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain and can develop because of:

  • overstretching your foot
  • overusing your foot
  • a medical condition

Plantar fasciitis is often associated with a heel spur. This is a spike of bone poking out from the heel bone. However, many people have heel spurs without any pain.

Illustration of primary bone cancer, which is sometimes called ‘osteosarcoma’ or ‘bone sarcoma’.

What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?

The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain under your heel. This pain can be dull or sharp. If you have plantar fasciitis, you may also notice:

  • aching or burning on the sole of your foot
  • swelling in your heel

The pain is often worse:

  • in the morning, as you take your first steps
  • after prolonged standing or sitting
  • after intense activity

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis can be caused by playing sports and doing activities that put stress on the heel bone. This can include:

  • running
  • dancing
  • aerobics
  • other sports and activities that involve jumping

Plantar fasciitis is more likely to occur if you have increased the amount of these activities recently.

It can also be caused by:

  • being flat-footed
  • having high arches
  • being middle-aged or older
  • being overweight or pregnant
  • spending a lot of time on your feet
  • wearing shoes with poor arch support or stiff soles
  • having tight or weak calf muscles

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When should I see my doctor?

If you have symptoms of plantar fasciitis, visit your doctor. They can diagnose your condition and advise you on the best treatment. If needed, they can refer you to a specialist.

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How is plantar fasciitis diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you might have plantar fasciitis, they will probably ask you some questions about:

  • your symptoms
  • the type of work you do
  • your lifestyle — the amount and type of physical activity that you do

They will probably do a physical exam to check the arches of your feet and your calves. They will check to see if there is any:

  • discomfort
  • tightness

They may also refer you for an x-ray or ultrasound scan to rule out other possible causes of heel pain. However, this is often not required for the diagnosis.

How is plantar fasciitis treated?

To help treat pain caused by plantar fasciitis, your doctor may suggest that you:

  • take pain-relief medicine, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol
  • rest your foot as much as possible
  • wear shoes with good support and cushioning
  • insert heel pads or arch supports (orthotics) in your shoes
  • wear night splints while sleeping
  • apply an icepack to your foot for 10 to 20 minutes up to 4 times daily

They may also suggest some exercises for you to do to stretch your plantar fascia, to better absorb your body weight.

Plantar fasciitis can often last for weeks or months.

If these measures don't work, your doctor may:

  • give you steroid injections in your heel
  • suggest surgery

These treatments are rare and usually only used in the most severe cases.

Can plantar fasciitis be prevented?

There are ways to reduce your risk of plantar fasciitis. Try to:

  • maintain a healthy weight
  • choose supportive shoes
  • warm up before doing physical activity
  • let yourself recover between physical activities
  • avoid activities that cause pain

Complications of plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis can make it painful to walk. If your heel pain is affecting your day-to-day activities, visit your doctor.

Resources and support

If you need to know more about plantar fasciitis, you can:

You can also call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to speak with a registered nurse, 24 hours, 7 days a week (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2023

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