Health News

April 01, 2019

Plantar Fasciitis: Q&A with Dr. Evelyn Heigh

In recognition of National Foot Health Awareness Month, we sat down with Summit Medical Group Arizona podiatrist, Dr. Evelyn Heigh, to discuss the common heel pain condition known as Plantar fasciitis (pronounced PLAN-tur-fas-e-I-tis).  
 
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It is inflammation of the band of tissue (the plantar fascia) that extends from the heel bone to the toes. 
 
What are the symptoms?
Pain associated with plantar fasciitis is unique to the individual. However, plantar fasciitis pain is typically described as a sharp or stabbing pain in the bottom of the foot near the heel. It is typically worse with the first steps out of bed in the morning or after periods of rest.  
 
What causes it?
The most common cause of plantar fasciitis relates to foot structure with overly flat feet or high-arched feet being more prone to the condition.
 
Wearing non-supportive footwear on hard surfaces puts extra strain on the plantar fascia and can also lead to plantar fasciitis. This condition is more prevalent in people whose lifestyle or job causes repetitive impact to the heel.
 
Plantar fasciitis is also linked to tightness in the calf muscle which can cause the fascia to become irritated and inflamed. 
 
Additionally, flares can be triggered by weight gain and pregnant women, particularly during late term, may experience bouts of plantar fasciitis. 
 
How is it treated?
When it comes to treating heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis, there are three key items that should addressed:
 
1. Support: This primarily comes from shoes. Wearing shoes with good arch support, a rigid sole, and some cushion for shock absorption can help reduce the stress on the plantar fascia. Sometimes an insole or athletic taping can help provide added support to the feet. 
2. Stretching: Exercises that stretch out the calf muscles help ease pain and assist with recovery. Stretching the foot and calf muscles while still in bed can reduce the severe pain that occurs with first putting weight on the heels
3. Inflammation: Ice is a natural anti-inflammatory and often an effective initial treatment to reduce pain and inflammation. One trick is to keep a plastic water bottle in the  freezer and  use as an ice pack to massage the arch.  Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, or injection therapy may be recommended to help provide relief.
 
Can it be prevented?
There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting plantar fasciitis.  
 
Wearing supportive shoes that have good arch support help reduce stress on the plantar fascia.
Avoid going barefoot. When you walk without shoes the plantar fascia is put at greater strain.
Stretching the calf muscles before exercising can help prevent injury.
If you are overweight or suffer from obesity, losing weight will relieve your feet of some pressure.
 
If you are experiencing heel pain, talk to a foot and ankle specialist. Ignoring it could result in a chronic condition that could eventually cause knee or even hip pain. First-line strategies can begin at home, but if pain persists, it’s important to talk to a doctor to get a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.