What are the Symptoms?
People with plantar fasciitis usually experience pain on the bottom of the heel or in the arch of the foot, which many describe as a dull ache. If you find the first free steps very morning painful, but the ache fades by lunchtime, you may be in the early stages of plantar fasciitis. Don’t be fooled by the disappearing pains! Over time, the ache will persist for longer and longer periods as damage to the plantar fascia worsens.
Eventually, the plantar fascia may begin to tear away from the heel bone entirely. Calcium deposits on the underside of the heel may begin to accumulate in the space between the ligament and bone, leading to a painful heel spur.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis
We’re all familiar – at least in theory – with the bones and muscles that make up the human body, but many people often forget the importance of tendons, which connect muscles to bones, and ligaments, which run from bone to bone, in keeping us all in one piece.
The plantar fascia, for example, is responsible for helping your foot to maintain its arch, which is important for balance and overall mobility. Stretching from the heel bone to the ball of your foot, this rigid piece of connective tissue plays a key role in walking mechanics. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia becomes stressed and inflamed, which can happen in many different ways:
- Overuse: Runners and walkers take note. Failure to invest in supportive footwear designed specifically to cushion and protect your feet may have you sitting out more than a few races. Repeated stress from high-impact activities can lead to tiny tears in the plantar fascia which, in turn, lead to pain and discomfort.
- Inappropriate footwear: Speaking of shoes, anything you put on your feet that forces them into an unnatural position or fails to provide proper support can lead to plantar fasciitis. If you’re fond of flip-flops or sky-high heels, you may want to do your feet a favor and consider other options.
- Excessive Standing: While it’s certainly true that humans weren’t designed to sit for eight hours a day, we’re also not equipped to stand for long periods, either. Without the chance to rest, the plantar fascia can swell and become inflamed.
- Weight: Similar to long periods of standing, excess weight can place additional stress on the structures responsible for keeping us upright, including the plantar fascia.
If you suspect lifestyle factors may be contributing to your foot pain, it may be worth consulting with your physician to discuss steps you can take at home to minimize the wear and tear on this important ligament.