Plantar Fasciitis
(Heel Spur Syndrome)

Diagram of foot pain areas

Could I have Plantar Fasciitis?

To start finding out, take a closer look at where you feel pain in your foot.

What areas of my foot hurt?
Plantar fasciitis affects these regions of the plantar region of your foot:

A Heel

B Arch & Midfoot

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS?

Diagram of heel showing plantar fascia

Plantar fasciitis gets its name from the plantar fascia—the band of connective tissue that stretches from the heel to the ball of your foot. Over time, too much stress on that connective tissue causes overtightening, tearing, and inflammation. When that connective tissue becomes inflamed, plantar fasciitis sets in. A painful cycle then sets in when your foot, which naturally tightens at night, immediately gains new tears each day with your first steps in the morning.

The experts at FootSmart and The Podiatry Institute agree that your plantar fascia can become stressed by...

  • Poor arch support, which usually is caused by
    • Shoes with improper arch support
    • Walking barefoot
  • Obesity or a sudden weight increase.
  • Sudden increase in physical activity, such as jogging more.
  • Short-term, unusual physical activity, such as laying flooring.
  • Weak foot and ankle muscles.
  • Tight calf muscles.
  • Arthritis.
Think you might have plantar fasciitis?TAKE THIS SELF-ASSESSMENT
Self- Assessment
Quiz
Do I feel heel and/or arch pain:
  • With the first few steps I take after getting out of bed in the morning?
  • After sitting for a long period of time?
  • After standing for a long period of time?
  • After walking for a long period of time?
  • When climbing stairs?
  • When standing on my tip-toes?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you show some key symptoms of having plantar fasciitis. TAKE THE NEXT QUICK QUIZ.

Self- Assessment
Quiz
Are any of these statements true for you?
  • I have pain that goes away after walking for 10 to 15 minutes, but gets worse and lasts longer over the course of the day.
  • My pain can be dull or sharp.
  • I experience pain in one or both feet.
  • My pain has worsened with time

If you might have plantar fasciitis, confirm your condition with a foot and ankle specialist (podiatrist). Keep reading for recommendations on treatment and relief from the experts at FootSmart and The Podiatry Institute.

How do I confirm whether I have plantar fasciitis?
X-ray of heel showing bone spur

X-rays will sometimes show a bone spur, which is a small hook-shaped bone growth, on the underside of your heel bone. (That’s why plantar fasciitis is also called heel spur syndrome.)

A foot and ankle specialist (podiatrist) can diagnose plantar fasciitis. The specialist will test for pain by putting direct pressure on the center of the bottom of your heel and along the plantar fascia. If you have had the condition for a long time, side to side squeezing of the heel may be painful.

Won’t the pain from plantar fasciitis go away on its own?

No, the condition often becomes disabling if you don’t treat it properly. Here’s why it gets worse over time. The plantar fascia becomes inflamed each and every time you apply too much stress to it. This stress creates tension around the heel bone. Calcium deposits form on the heel bone, resulting in heel pain. As a result, plantar fasciitis can be very difficult to cure completely unless treated properly and often will get worse. The sooner you treat it, the better.

How do I treat and prevent plantar fasciitis?

Successful non-surgical treatments for plantar fasciitis begin and end with arch support. Any or all of the following treatments from FootSmart and The Podiatry Institute could help you alleviate and prevent plantar fasciitis:

Diagram of sandel with arch support
Wear Shoes with:
  1. Stable arch support
  2. A wide shock absorbing heel base
  3. Cushioning in the front part of the foot
  • Wear cushioning insoles. One study found that over-the-counter insoles reduce plantar fascia stress by 25-34%. (1)
  • Use heel cushions and pads.
  • Wear arch and foot supports (for increased arch support).
  • Wear ankle braces to add support to the foot.
  • Stretch the foot to relieve tension on the plantar fascia. You can stretch by hand or by using specific stretching aids. One study found that stretching improved symptoms of plantar fasciitis after eight weeks and at a two-year follow-up.
  • Wear night splints. Night splints provide a consistent, automatic stretching of the plantar fascia over the course of the night. Using a splint can make those first steps in the morning much less painful.
  • Use over-the counter or custom shoe inserts. In cases where over-the-counter, flexible insoles do not help relieve pain, podiatrists often recommend rigid, custom inserts (orthotics). Rigid orthotics can realign the foot and provide long-term arch support.
  • Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis

If those treatments do not sufficiently stop your heel pain, a foot and ankle specialist can administer steroid injections. These injections help your healing process by stopping the inflammatory process.

Doctor pointing to heel of foot
What if non-surgical treatments do not work?

Unfortunately, in less than 10% of people with plantar fasciitis, nonsurgical treatments do not help with pain and inflammation. If this happens, your foot and ankle specialist may suggest surgical options. Surgical treatment of heel spur syndrome reduces the tension on the plantar fascia by lengthening the tissue.

The surgery:
  • Cuts the plantar fascia close to its attachment at the heel bone.
  • Stretches the tissue to create a small gap.

Over time, the gap fills with scar tissue, ultimately lengthening the plantar fascia. The surgery usually does not remove heel spurs, unless they are in a place that directly affects how you walk and stand.

After surgery, recovery time varies from patient to patient.

  • Most patients need at least 6 weeks to make a full recovery.
  • Patients will sometimes need casting or splinting, which will lengthen the time it takes until they are back to their normal activities.

(1) Reed Ferber and Brittany Benson, "Changes in multi-segment foot biomechanics with a heat-mouldable semi-custom foot orthotic device," Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, 2011, 4:18, jfootankleres.com