The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band that runs the length of the sole of the foot. The plantar fascia helps maintain the complex arch system of the foot and plays a role in one's balance and
the various phases of gait. Injury to this tissue, called plantar fasciitis, is one of the most disabling running injuries and also one of the most difficult to resolve. Plantar fasciitis represents
the fourth most common injury to the lower limb and represents 8 -10% of all presenting injuries to sports clinics (Ambrosius 1992, Nike 1989). Rehabilitation can be a long and frustrating process.
The use of preventative exercises and early recognition of danger signals are critical in the avoidance of this injury.
Plantar fasciitis can be confused with a condition called tarsal tunnel syndrome. In tarsal tunnel syndrome, an important nerve in the foot, the tibial nerve, is trapped and pinched as it passes
through the tarsal tunnel, a condition analogous to carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist. This may cause symptoms similar to the pain of a plantar fasciitis. There are also other less common problems
such as nerve entrapments, stress fractures, and fat pad necrosis, all of which can cause foot pain. Finally, several rheumatologic conditions can cause heel pain. These syndromes such as Reiter's
syndrome and ankylosing spondylitis can cause heel pain similar to plantar fasciitis. If your symptoms are not typical for plantar fasciitis, or if your symptoms do not resolve with treatment, your
doctor will consider these possible diagnoses.
Plantar fasciitis generally occurs in one foot. Bilateral plantar fasciitis is unusual and tends to be the result of a systemic arthritic condition that is exceptionally rare among athletes. Males
suffer from a somewhat greater incidence of plantar fasciitis than females, perhaps as a result of greater weight coupled with greater speed and ground impact, as well as less flexibility in the
foot. Typically, the sufferer of plantar fasciitis experiences pain upon rising after sleep, particularly the first step out of bed. Such pain is tightly localized at the bony landmark on the
anterior medial tubercle of the calcaneus. In some cases, pain may prevent the athlete from walking in a normal heel-toe gait, causing an irregular walk as means of compensation. Less common areas of
pain include the forefoot, Achilles tendon, or subtalar joint. After a brief period of walking, the pain usually subsides, but returns again either with vigorous activity or prolonged standing or
walking. On the field, an altered gait or abnormal stride pattern, along with pain during running or jumping activities are tell-tale signs of plantar fasciitis and should be given prompt attention.
Further indications of the injury include poor dorsiflexion (lifting the forefoot off the ground) due to a shortened gastroc complex, (muscles of the calf). Crouching in a full squat position with
the sole of the foot flat on the ground can be used as a test, as pain will preclude it for the athlete suffering from plantar fasciitis, causing an elevation of the heel due to tension in the
Your doctor will check your feet and watch you stand and walk. He or she will also ask questions about your past health, including what illnesses or injuries you have had. Your symptoms, such as
where the pain is and what time of day your foot hurts most. How active you are and what types of physical activity you do. Your doctor may take an X-ray of your foot if he or she suspects a problem
with the bones of your foot, such as a stress fracture.
Non Surgical Treatment
Stabilize the foot by using uniquely placed wedges, deep heel cups, and "posts" (stabilizers). When the foot is stabilized, it is brought back to a neutral or normal alignment. When the foot is in
its normal alignment, pronation and supination are reduced or completely corrected, and the abnormal pull on the Plantar Fascia is alleviated. This will allow the Plantar Fascia to begin to heal.
When healing occurs, the pain and inflammation gradually subside. Provide the specific amount of arch support that your foot requires. Our custom-made orthotics support not only the arch as a whole,
but each individual bone and joint that forms the arch. Whether your arch is flat or abnormally high, our custom-made orthotics will provide the support that you need. When the arch is properly
supported, the Plantar Fascia is protected and healing can begin. Aid in shock absorption. The primary shock absorbers of our feet, and therefore our body, are the Plantar Fascia and the arch. To aid
these structures, we construct our custom-made orthotics so that they provide semi-flexible support to the arch by "giving" to absorb the shock of each step, rather than our foot absorbing the shock
(our orthotics act in the same way a shock absorber does on an automobile). When your weight is removed from the orthotic, the arch returns to its original height since the material we use has a
built-in "memory." This action will help to keep the Plantar Fascia and arch healthy and pain free. Cushion the heel. Our custom-made orthotics use thin, cushiony, durable, materials to cushion and
protect the heel. This helps to alleviate painful heels.
When more conservative methods have failed to reduce plantar fasciitis pain, your doctor may suggest extracorporeal shock wave therapy, which is used to treat chronic plantar fasciitis.
Extracorporeal shock wave therapy uses sound waves to stimulate healing, but may cause bruises, numbness, tingling, swelling, and pain. When all else fails, surgery may be recommended to detach the
plantar fascia from the heel bone. Few people need surgery to treat the condition.
An important part of prevention is to perform a gait analysis to determine any biomechanical problems with the foot which may be causing the injury. This can be corrected with orthotic inserts into
the shoes. If symptoms do not resolve then surgery is an option, however this is more common for patients with a rigid high arch where the plantar fascia has shortened.