A Quick Review of Plantar Fasciitis
Before going into causes, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about the condition itself.
Plantar fasciitis is the aggravation and/or injury of the plantar fascia, a strong band of tissue that joins the heel bone to the base of the toes. This band also runs along and helps form the arch of the foot.
One of the most frequent symptoms of plantar fasciitis is sharp heel pain during the first few minutes you start walking around in the morning, or after any long period of inactivity. Once the plantar fascia has had some time to stretch again, the pain typically lessens.
Excess stress or strain against the plantar fascia is a primary cause of plantar fasciitis, as it can cause the band to overstretch and develop tiny tears.
But how does that stress arise? There are several possibilities.
Overuse simply refers to the body being made to endure more than it is currently conditioned to take. While the plantar fascia is strong, it’s not invincible. Eventually, too much force can wear it down to the point of injury.
While overuse injuries tend to be associated with physical activities such as exercise and sports, you do not have to be an athlete to experience them. Overuse-type injuries can also be experienced as part of one’s workday or hobbies as well.
A few examples of how plantar fasciitis can develop from overuse include:
- Having a job that requires you to stand, squat, or stoop for extended periods of time – especially on hard surfaces.
- Heading into an intense sport or activity without much prior conditioning or any warming up (for example, a “weekend warrior” deciding to spend all day playing pick-up basketball).
- Increasing the intensity of a workout plan too rapidly.
- Repetitive impacts from long periods of consistent running, without taking enough rest days for your feet to recover.
Abnormalities in Structure and Mechanics
The foot is designed to optimally distribute weight across itself as you move. If an abnormality exists in that design, however, it can shift excess force to areas that may not be able to endure it well.
Having flat feet, high arches, or other abnormalities can place excess stress on the arches, which often means excess stress on the plantar fascia. Such abnormalities can also affect the way you walk (i.e. biomechanics), which can also add to the stress.
Abnormalities also do not have to be specific to the foot in order to place stress on the plantar fascia. Having tight calf muscles or a tight Achilles tendon can also affect the plantar fascia by pulling on the heel bone – and subsequently the plantar fascia.
If your shoes are not providing the cushioning and arch support you need for your activities, they can be contributing to conditions like plantar fasciitis instead.
Always ensure you have the right shoes for the job, whether that means providing support for long days of standing or better shock absorption while on the move. And if your shoes are worn out, they’ll stop providing the help you need.
Other changes can have an impact on your plantar fasciitis and heel pain, including rapid weight gain or loss, pregnancy, and changes in career or lifestyle that influence your activity levels.