Do your first few steps out of bed in the morning cause severe pain in your heel?
Or does your heel hurt after jogging or playing tennis?
Most commonly, heel pain is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia – the tissue along the bottom of your foot that connects your heel bone to your toes.
The condition is called plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis).
Plantar fasciitis causes stabbing or burning pain that’s usually worse in the morning because the fascia tightens (contracts) overnight. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position.
You’re more likely to get the condition if you’re a woman, if you’re overweight, or if you have a job that requires a lot of walking or standing on hard surfaces. You’re also at risk if you walk or run for exercise, especially if you have tight calf muscles that limit how far you can flex your ankles. People with very flat feet or very high arches are also more prone to plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis usually develops gradually, but it can come on suddenly and be severe. And although it can affect both feet, it more often occurs in only one foot at a time. You’re more likely to feel it after (not during) exercise.
If you don’t treat plantar fasciitis, it may become a chronic condition. You may not be able to keep up your level of activity and you may also develop symptoms of foot, knee, hip and back problems because of the way plantar fasciitis changes the way you walk.
Under normal circumstances, your plantar fascia acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring, supporting the arch in your foot. But, if tension on that bowstring becomes too great, it can create small tears in the fascia. Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed. The causes of plantar fasciitis can be:
Physical Activity Overload
Plantar fasciitis is common in long-distance runners. Jogging, walking or stair climbing also can place too much stress on your heel bone and the soft tissue attached to it, especially as part of an aggressive new training regimen. Even household exertion, such as moving furniture or large appliances, can trigger the pain.
Some types of arthritis can cause inflammation in the tendons in the bottom of your foot, which may lead to plantar fasciitis.
Although doctors don’t know why, plantar fasciitis occurs more often in people with diabetes.
Faulty foot mechanics
Being flat-footed, having a high arch or even having an abnormal pattern of walking can adversely affect the way weight is distributed when you’re on your feet, putting added stress on the plantar fascia.
Shoes that are thin-soled, loose, or lack arch support or the ability to absorb shock don’t protect your feet. If you regularly wear shoes with high heels, your Achilles tendon – which is attached to your heel – can contract and shorten, causing strain on the tissue around your heel.
You can take some simple steps now to prevent painful steps later.
Maintain a healthy weight
This minimizes the stress on your plantar fascia.
Choose supportive shoesGive stilettos the boot. Also avoid shoes with excessively low heels. Buy shoes with a low to moderate heel, good arch support and shock absorbency.
Add arch supports to your shoes
Inexpensive over-the-counter arch supports take the tension off the plantar fascia and help absorb shock.
Don’t go barefoot, especially on hard surfaces
Don’t wear worn-out athletic shoes
Replace your old athletic shoes before they stop supporting and cushioning your feet. If you’re a runner, buy new shoes after about 400 miles of use.
Start sports activities slowly
Warm up before starting any athletic activity or sport, and start a new exercise program slowly.
Wake up with a Stretch
Before you get out of bed in the morning, stretch your calf muscles, arch and Achilles tendon by reaching for your toes and gently flexing your foot. This helps reverse the tightening of the plantar fascia that occurs overnight.