PlantarBlog_7RzOaR8.jpegThe most common cause of heel pain is called plantar fasciitis. It occurs due to inflammation of the tendon that runs along the bottom of the foot. This condition can develop from activities like standing, walking, running, or participating in sports for long hours. In some cases, an acute injury to the bottom of the foot can damage the plantar fascia and lead to the early stages of plantar fasciitis. Factors such as having flat or overpronated feet, high arches, wearing ill-fitting shoes, having tight calf muscles, or being overweight can contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis. If you are experiencing heel pain, it is important to consult a podiatrist near you for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Many people suffer from bouts of heel pain. For more information, contact one of our podiatrists of Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists. Our doctors can provide the care you need to keep you pain-free and on your feet.

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Overview of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is a common foot condition experienced by many individuals. It is characterized by a sharp, stabbing pain in the bottom of the foot, typically near the heel. This condition is caused by inflammation in the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. Those suffering from plantar fasciitis often feel the most intense pain with the first steps after waking up or after long periods of standing or sitting.

The pain treatment of plantar fasciitis typically involves a combination of rest, ice, over-the-counter pain relievers, and physical therapy. Physical therapy includes specific stretches and exercises that can help relieve pain and inflammation, improve foot strength, and promote recovery. In chronic plantar fasciitis pain or cases, where symptoms persist for more than six months despite conservative treatments, additional interventions like corticosteroid injections, shock wave therapy, or even surgery may be considered.

It's crucial to understand that plantar heel pain can greatly affect your daily activities. Therefore, seeking early treatment is necessary to manage the symptoms and prevent further complications. If you're experiencing any symptoms of plantar fasciitis, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare provider as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Who Is Commonly Affected by Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis primarily affects active individuals, especially runners and those involved in high-impact activities that strain the heel and its attached tissue. However, it is not limited to athletes alone. The condition is also prevalent in individuals who are overweight or obese, as the excessive pressure on the plantar fascia ligaments can lead to its development, particularly with sudden weight gain. Moreover, people with occupations that require prolonged standing, such as factory workers and teachers, are at an increased risk. The age group most commonly affected by plantar fasciitis is between 40 to 60 years old. Additionally, pregnant women in later stages often experience bouts of plantar fasciitis due to the added weight and strain on their feet.

To alleviate symptoms and prevent plantar fasciitis, various approaches can be adopted. Night splints can be used to maintain a gentle stretch on the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon while sleeping. Additionally, addressing conditions like a heel spur and flat feet can help reduce the risk of developing plantar fasciitis.

What Are the Causes of Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is typically caused by repetitive strain to the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes. This strain can trigger inflammation and micro-tears in the plantar fascia, leading to the characteristic heel pain. Factors contributing to this strain include long hours standing or walking on hard surfaces, wearing unsupportive footwear, carrying excess body weight, or having an abnormal walking pattern.

In some cases,  plantar fascia rupture can occur. This may result from acute injury, overstretching, or excessive strain on the foot, particularly if plantar fasciitis has already weakened the tissue. Such cases require careful management and usually the intervention of a physical therapist.

The occurrence of Plantar Fasciitis can be attributed to various factors, each playing a significant role in the overuse or strain of the plantar fascia. Understanding these causative agents can aid in the effective management and prevention of this foot condition. These causes include:

  • Long hours of standing or walking on hard surfaces
  • Wearing unsupportive footwear
  • Carrying excess body weight
  • Having an abnormal walking pattern
  • Acute injury or overstretching the foot
  • Foot structure: Flat or overpronated feet, high arches
  • shoe inserts
  • Tight calf muscles
  • Overweight or obesity

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis, often referred to as painful heel syndrome, presents specific symptoms that help in its identification. The most glaring sign of developing plantar fasciitis is a sharp, stabbing pain in the bottom of the foot near the heel. This pain is typically most severe during the first few steps after waking up in the morning, after long periods of sitting or standing, or after intense activity. As plantar fasciitis occurs, the pain might lessen after some movement but can return after prolonged periods of standing or after rising from sitting.

Another symptom indicating the onset of plantar fasciitis is heel tenderness. The bottom of the foot may become tender to touch, and swelling might also occur. It's essential to note that individuals might develop bone spurs, which are bony growths on the heel, with plantar fasciitis. However, bone spurs themselves are not the cause of the pain; instead, they are a result of the stress on the foot's muscles and ligaments.

Understanding these symptoms is pivotal for early detection and treatment, which can prevent the condition from worsening. If you experience persistent heel pain and other symptoms mentioned above, it's prudent to consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and then, treat plantar fasciitis.

Diagnosis of Plantar Fasciitis

Diagnosing plantar fasciitis primarily involves a clinical examination performed by a healthcare provider. During the process of diagnosing plantar fasciitis, the healthcare professional will evaluate the foot's pain and tenderness, focusing on the heel area. They might also ask about the intensity and onset of the pain, your activity levels, and whether you have any history of previous heel problems.

Physical examination often includes the 'windlass test,' where the healthcare provider bends your toes up towards your shin to stretch the plantar fascia. If this movement triggers pain, it may indicate plantar fasciitis. The provider might also observe your gait and foot structure, looking for any abnormalities that could contribute to plantar fasciitis.

Imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI can, if necessary, confirm the diagnosis of plantar fasciitis. These tests can reveal inflammation in the plantar fascia and exclude other conditions that could cause heel pain, such as stress fractures or nerve problems.

Understanding the risk factors is essential to prevent and manage plantar fasciitis. As mentioned earlier, risk factors include prolonged standing or walking on hard surfaces, unsupportive footwear, excess body weight, abnormal walking patterns, and certain foot structures.

Being aware of these risk factors and making appropriate lifestyle modifications – such as wearing supportive shoes, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding activities that place excessive strain on the heel – can significantly reduce the risk of developing plantar fasciitis. If you suspect you may have plantar fasciitis, it is imperative to seek medical attention promptly to obtain an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment.

Treatment options for Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis, also known as painful heel syndrome, occurs when the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissues that connects the heel bone to the toes, becomes inflamed. It is a common condition among individuals who engage in activities that put excessive strain on the feet, such as running or standing for long periods.

Developing plantar fasciitis can be treated initially with conservative methods. Rest and reducing activities that strain the plantar fascia are the first line of treatment. Physical therapy is highly recommended for managing and improving plantar fasciitis. A skilled physical therapist can create a customized exercise and stretching program to enhance the flexibility of the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon, as well as strengthen the lower leg muscles to stabilize the ankle and heel.

In some cases, additional treatments like orthotics, night splints, or corticosteroid injections may be considered, especially when the condition persists. Surgery is typically seen as a last resort after all other treatment options have been exhausted. It's important to seek early intervention to improve outcomes and prevent further damage.

Bone spurs, which are bony outgrowths that can develop along the edges of the heel bone, are often associated with plantar fasciitis. However, not all individuals with plantar fasciitis will develop bone spurs.

When surgery might be necessary

Surgery might be necessary for treating plantar fasciitis when conservative methods have not been effective, and intense foot pain persists. One common surgical option is plantar fascia release. This procedure involves cutting part of the plantar fascia ligament to release tension and relieve inflammation. The procedure is generally considered only after about a year of aggressive nonsurgical treatments.

Post-surgery, patients may experience mild foot swelling, which is a normal part of the healing process. This swelling can be managed by elevating the foot, applying ice, and wearing compression socks or bandages as recommended by the healthcare provider.

Another essential aspect to consider post-surgery is the type of footwear. Wearing shoes that offer good arch support and a slightly raised heel can reduce stress on the plantar fascia. Using orthotic shoe inserts may also provide additional comfort and support. It's crucial to make a gradual return to regular activities, guided by the tolerance level of foot pain, to avoid re-injuring the plantar fascia.

Preventing Plantar Fasciitis

Preventing plantar fasciitis chiefly involves adopting a lifestyle that minimizes undue stress on your feet. Consistent and appropriate exercise can help maintain a healthy weight and strengthen the muscles in your feet, both of which are instrumental in reducing the risk of plantar fasciitis.

One significant preventive measure is wearing supportive shoes. Footwear should provide sufficient cushioning and arch support, as shoes that are too tight, too loose, or worn out can lead to foot problems. Custom orthotics or over-the-counter arch supports can help distribute pressure evenly across your feet when you walk.

Moreover, regular stretching exercises can help keep the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon flexible, thereby reducing the chances of their inflammation. It's particularly beneficial to stretch before and after exercise and first thing in the morning.

When conservative preventive methods and treatments fail to provide relief, you might be dealing with recalcitrant plantar fasciitis. This chronic condition doesn't respond to traditional methods of treatment, often causing frustration for patients due to its stubborn nature.

One of the increasingly popular treatments for recalcitrant plantar fasciitis is Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT). Extracorporeal means 'outside the body,' and this non-invasive treatment involves sending shock waves, or sound waves, into the heel of the foot to stimulate healing within the plantar fascia. Although ESWT is not a guaranteed cure, it has shown promise in many cases where other treatments have failed. It's important to note that ESWT is typically considered only for severe, persistent cases of plantar fasciitis, and its usage should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

Thus, proactive management of the risk factors, combined with prompt medical intervention in case of persistent symptoms, can significantly aid in preventing and managing plantar fasciitis.


Plantar fasciitis is a common condition caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia. It mainly affects those who put excessive strain on their feet. To reduce the risk, wear supportive shoes, maintain a healthy weight, and do regular stretching exercises. Treatment options include rest, physical therapy, and surgery. Seek early medical guidance for better outcomes. Advanced treatments like Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT) are available for chronic cases. With awareness, preventive measures, and timely medical intervention, plantar fasciitis can be effectively managed.

Take the First Step Towards Pain-Free Feet

Don't let plantar fasciitis dictate your life. The team at Northern Illinois Foot and Ankle Specialist is here to help you get back to doing what you love, pain-free. Our specialists offer a comprehensive range of treatment options and will tailor a plan to your unique needs.Book your appointment today and step forward into a life without foot pain.

If you have any questions, please contact one of our offices located in Lake in the Hills, Cary, Fox Lake, Crystal Lake, Hoffman Estates, Chicago, Elgin, and Hinsdale, IL. We offer the newest diagnostic and treatment technologies for all your foot and ankle needs.

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