Emily wasn't sure how she let her friend talk her into signing up for a 10-mile race. The most she'd ever jogged was 3 miles. Now, with just a few days to go before the race, Emily felt woefully unprepared, so she jogged 6 miles one day and then 8 the next to get ready.
The morning of the race, Emily's heel hurt a little bit when she woke up, but she still joined her friend and made it the full 10 miles. The next day her heel was in so much pain that she could barely walk, so Emily went to see a doctor. The doctor asked her some questions about her activities, then told Emily she had a condition called plantar fasciitis.
At the bottom of your foot there's a thick band of connective tissue called the plantar fascia or arch tendon. It connects your heel bone (calcaneus) to the front of your foot.
If the plantar fascia becomes irritated and sore from overuse, it's known as plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis sometimes can be mistaken for heel spurs, which is a different kind of injury with similar symptoms.
Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain in runners, dancers, and athletes in sports that involve a lot of running or jumping.
You don't have to be active to get plantar fasciitis. It can affect anyone. People who are overweight, pregnant women, people whose jobs involve a lot of standing, and people who wear worn-out shoes all have a higher chance of getting plantar fasciitis.
The most obvious symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp pain on the bottom of the foot, near the heel. Here are some signals that this pain may be plantar fasciitis:
If you see a doctor for heel pain, he or she will first ask questions about where you feel the pain. If plantar fasciitis is suspected, the doctor will ask about what activities you've been doing that might be putting you at risk. The doctor will also examine your foot by pressing on it or asking you to flex it to see if that makes the pain worse.
If something else might be causing the pain, like a heel spur or a bone fracture, the doctor may order an X-ray to take a look at the bones of your feet. In rare cases, if heel pain doesn't respond to regular treatments, the doctor also might order an MRI scan of your foot.
The good news about plantar fasciitis is that it usually goes away after a few months if you do a few simple things like stretching exercises and cutting back on activities that might have caused the problem. Taking over-the-counter medicines can help with pain. It's rare that people need surgery for plantar fasciitis. Doctors only do surgery as a last resort if nothing else eases the pain.
Because the plantar fascia supports your foot and gets used every time you take a step, it has to absorb a large amount of stress and weight. If too much pressure is put on the plantar fascia, the fibers can become damaged or start to tear. The body responds by causing inflammation in the affected area. This is what causes the pain and stiffness of plantar fasciitis.
Things that can increase the risk of plantar fasciitis include:
More than with most sports injuries, a little bit of prevention can go a long way toward keeping you free from plantar fasciitis. Here are some tips to follow:
Talk to your doctor about getting heel pads, custom shoe inserts, or orthotics to put in your shoes. Foot supports can help cushion your feet and distribute your weight more evenly. This is especially true for people with high arches or flat feet. Your doctor will be able to tell you if shoe inserts and supports might lower your chances of heel injury.
Treatments you can do at home include:
For people who get repeated sports injuries, it can help to see a sports medicine specialist. These experts are trained in evaluating things like an athlete's running style, jumping stance, or other key moves. They can teach you how to make the most of your body's strengths and compensate for any weaknesses.
Once you're healed, look for the silver lining in your bench time. You may find that what you learn from having an injury leads you to play a better game than ever before.
Reviewed by: Suken A. Shah, MD
Date reviewed: November 2014
|American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) The AAOS provides information for the public on sports safety, and bone, joint, muscle, ligament and tendon injuries or conditions.|
|American College of Sports Medicine This site has tips on staying safe while playing sports and exercising.|
|National Athletic Trainers' Association This site contains information on certified athletic trainers and tips on preventing and healing sports injuries.|
|Bursitis Bursitis, an irritation of the small fluid sacs that provide cushioning in some joints, is often caused by sports-related injuries or repeated use of a particular joint.|
|Safety Tips: Running Injuries can be common, and runners should always be aware of their surroundings. To keep things safe while running, follow these tips.|
|Runner's Knee Runner's knee is the most common overuse injury among runners, but it can also happen to other athletes who do activities that require a lot of knee bending.|
|Jumper's Knee Jumper's knee is an inflammation or injury of the patellar tendon. Although it can seem minor, it's actually a serious condition that can get worse over time and ultimately require surgery if not treated.|
|Dealing With Sports Injuries You practiced hard and made sure you wore protective gear, but you still got hurt. Read this article to find out how to take care of sports injuries - and how to avoid getting them.|
|How Can I Run Without Pain? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries ACL injuries - which are common in active and athletic people - happen when excessive pressure is put on the knee joint, resulting in a torn ligament.|
|Hamstring Strain A hamstring strain happens when one or more of the muscles in the back of the leg gets stretched too far and starts to tear. Find out how to treat hamstring strains in this article for teens.|
|Bones, Muscles, and Joints Our bones, muscles, and joints form our musculoskeletal system and enable us to do everyday physical activities.|
|Sports and Exercise Safety Playing hard doesn't have to mean getting hurt. The best way to ensure a long and injury-free athletic career is to play it safe from the start. Find out how.|
|Strains and Sprains Sprains and strains are common injuries, especially for people who play hard or are into sports. Find out what they are and how to recuperate from one.|
|Stress Fractures It's not always easy to tell if you have a stress fracture, and stress fractures can get worse quickly. This article explains how to prevent and treat them.|
|Sports Center This site has tips on things like preparing for a new season, handling sports pressure, staying motivated, and dealing with injuries.|
|Achilles Tendonitis If the tendon just above your heel becomes swollen or irritated due to overuse, it can lead to a painful condition called Achilles tendonitis. Find out how to treat it - and prevent it.|
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