Do you feel a sharp pain in your heel when you wake up in the morning and take that first step?
It’s not because you have to get out of bed for the day. It may be plantar fasciitis.
What is it?
Plantar fasciitis (fashee-EYE-tiss) is inflammation or swelling of the flat ligament on the bottom of your foot that connects heel to toes, or the plantar fascia. The fascia supports your arch.
Aaron Homolka, M.P.T., Marshfield Clinic Rehabilitation Services manager, says he sees patients frequently seeking care for this pain.
“It’s the most common form of heel pain in our patients and we see a lot of patients with it,” he said.
It’s common in people who stand a lot, especially on hard surfaces. Others who tend to suffer from it are soldiers, middle-aged people and athletes.
Plantar fasciitis can develop by wearing inappropriate footwear, a quick increase in your training regimen, prolonged standing and if you are constantly barefoot. Tight calves or a tight Achilles tendon can cause it, too.
Inappropriate footwear can include flip flops and worn-out shoes.
Signs of plantar fasciitis
The most common sign of plantar fasciitis is heel or arch pain on the bottom of your foot.
“It’s that sharp pain for the first few steps after getting up,” Homolka said. “The trauma to the fascia causes micro tears, which can be contributed to tightness after prolonged rest. Stress is applied, the fascia gets pulled and it can cause repetitive micro tears.”
This pain can also happen when you sit for a long time, then get up and walk.
How to treat it
Anti-inflammatory treatments such as icing your heel can help ease plantar fasciitis. You can also check the support in your footwear since it also happens in high-arched or flat-footed people.
If exercise like running sets it off, reduce how much you run. Stretching your calf, Achilles tendon and toes can also help the bottom of your foot.
Some people wear splints at night, since it prevents the foot from relaxing down which naturally tightens the fascia. Orthotics and a good stability type of shoe can help by supporting the foot and arch. Avoid going barefoot when you can.
A dry needling procedure can help with tightness in your calf if that’s contributing to the pain.
“Your foot should get better with treatment after a few weeks, but it could go on for months to years,” Homolka said. “It tends to be chronic, so the treatment takes time.”