Pain in the heel and arch can have many causes. However, the most common name given to this pain is Plantar Fasciitis – a condition associated with the overuse of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thick band of dense connective tissue that begins on the heel, fans out and inserts on the forefoot. The purpose of the fascia is to help stabilize the foot and support the arches. The fascia stretches during weight bearing, standing, and toe extension. Problems occur when the tension placed on this structure exceeds its ability to stretch.
Inflammation in the plantar fascia usually leads to pain. Causes of inflammation include, but are not limited to:
- Increased running mileage
- Calf musculature tightness
- Flat feet
- Poor running mechanics
- Shoes without proper arch support
- Switching shoe type
With plantar fasciitis, sharp pain typically begins at the heel and gradually moves into the center of the foot. Pain typically occurs:
- During or following exercise
- During the first steps in the morning
- During the first steps after sitting for a long period of time
- During and after prolonged standing
To treat plantar fasciitis, try resting the area and/or changing your routine:
- Decrease mileage or stop running
- Stay off your feet when pain is at its worst
- Incorporate low-impact and no-impact activities into your work-out
- Stretch the plantar fascia and calf muscles at least three times a day
- Massage the area by rolling a tennis ball under the arch of your foot while seated
- Control pain and inflammation with an oral anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin. (Before starting these or any other medications, please consult with your physician.)
- Use arch supports in your shoes
- After painful activity, place ice on the heel and arch for 10-20 minutes
These suggestions should help to manage your pain. When symptoms subside, you can gradually return to activity. However, if there is no improvement within a few weeks or your pain becomes worse – despite self-treatment, contact your doctor.
For additional questions on plantar fasciitis or other sports medicine topics, call the Aurora Sports Medicine Hotline™at (414) 219-7776 or (800) 219-7776.