Plantar fasciitis was previously believed to be inflammation of the fascia near its insertion on the heel bone. The suffix (-itis) means inflammation. Studies, however, reveal that changes in the
tissue associated with the injury are degenerative and not related to inflammation, at least not in the way most people typically think of inflammation. Sudden onset of heel pain may indeed be
related to acute inflammation. For persistent heel pain the condition more closely resembles long-standing degeneration of the plantar fascia near its attachment than inflammation. This could explain
why anti-inflammatory medications and injections have been unsuccessful at treating it. But there is more to heel pain than just the plantar fascia.
Plantar fasciitis tends to strike those who overtrain, neglect to stretch their calf muscles, or overdo hill work and speedwork. Plantar fasciitis can also be caused by biomechanical flaws, including
flat, high-arched feet and a tight Achilles tendon; excessive pronation; sudden increases in training mileage; beginning speedwork; wearing worn running shoes; running on hard surfaces, like asphalt
or concrete; or wearing high heels all day before switching into flat running shoes.
The classic sign of plantar fasciitis is that the worst pain occurs with the first few steps in the morning, but not every patient will have this symptom. Patients often notice pain at the beginning
of activity that lessens or resolves as they warm up. The pain may also occur with prolonged standing and is sometimes accompanied by stiffness. In more severe cases, the pain will also worsen toward
the end of the day.
Your doctor can usually diagnose plantar fasciitis just by talking to you and examining your feet. Rarely, tests are needed if the diagnosis is uncertain or to rule out other possible causes of heel
pain. These can include X-rays of the heel or an ultrasound scan of the fascia. An ultrasound scan usually shows thickening and swelling of the fascia in plantar fasciitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Check your shoes to make sure they offer sufficient support and motion control. They should bend only at the ball of the foot, where your toes attach to the foot. This is very important. Avoid any
shoe that bends in the center of the arch or behind the ball of the foot. It offers insufficient support and will stress your plantar fascia. The human foot was not designed to bend here and neither
should a shoe be designed to do this. You may also strengthen the muscles in your arch by performing toe curls or "doming". Toe curls may be done by placing a towel on a kitchen floor and then
curling your toes to pull the towel towards you. This exercise may also be done without the towel against the resistance of the floor. Plantar fasciitis is usually controlled with conservative
treatment. Besides surgery and cortisone injections, physical therapy modalities such as electrical stimulation and ultrasound can be used. Often the foot will be taped to limit pronation. Following
control of the pain and inflammation an orthotic (a custom made shoe insert) can be used to control over-pronation.
Surgery may be considered in very difficult cases. Surgery is usually only advised if your pain has not eased after 12 months despite other treatments. The operation involves separating your plantar
fascia from where it connects to the bone; this is called a plantar fascia release. It may also involve removal of a spur on the calcaneum if one is present. Surgery is not always successful. It can
cause complications in some people so it should be considered as a last resort. Complications may include infection, increased pain, injury to nearby nerves, or rupture of the plantar fascia.