If you haven't already, now is the perfect time to recognize the important role feet play in your daily routine.
Your feet are complex structures that contain 1/4 of all the bones in your body. Because of their complexity, they are also prone to a wide variety of issues ranging from ingrown toenails to more complicated problems involving nerves, tendons, and bones. Approximately 20% of Americans experience at least one foot problem each year, and up to 87% of people have painful feet at some time in their lives.
One frequent cause of foot pain is plantar fasciitis, a common overuse injury causing inflammation of the plantar fascia — a tough, fibrous band of tissue that runs along the sole of the foot. The plantar fascia supports the arch of the foot and has an important role in normal foot mechanics during walking or running.
It is estimated that approximately 1 million patient visits to physicians each year are due to plantar fasciitis. The condition accounts for about 10% of runner-related injuries and 15% of all foot symptoms requiring professional care.
Many athletes have been sidelined due to plantar fasciitis, including Tiger Woods and Evan Longoria, as well as former stars like Peyton Manning and Albert Pujols. However, anyone can get plantar fasciitis as it is thought to occur in 10% of the general population as well.
Associated Risk Factors
Obesity is present in up to 70% of plantar fasciitis cases, and the condition is most common in people between the ages of 40 and 60. Other risk factors for developing plantar fasciitis include:
- Pes planus (low arch)
- Pes cavus (high arch)
- Certain types of activities that place a lot of stress on your heel, such as long-distance running, ballet dancing and aerobic exercise
- Occupations that keep you on your feet. Teachers, nurses, doctors, people who work in retail and others who spend most of their work hours walking or standing on hard surfaces can be at increased risk of plantar fasciitis.
The most common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:
- Gradually increasing pain, or pain that can occur suddenly after an injury
- Pain on the bottom of the foot near the heel
- Pain with the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning, or after a long period of rest, such as after a long car ride or watching TV. This pain usually subsides after a few minutes of walking
- Greater pain after (not during) exercise or activity
- The pain may be more intense in bare feet or in shoes with minimal support
More than 90% of people with plantar fasciitis recover in several months with conservative treatment. In general, the longer the symptoms have been present and the more severe the pain, the longer the treatment may take. Additionally, high-demand athletes, such as cross-country or marathon runners, may require a longer course of treatment.
Plantar fasciitis treatment options include:
- Stretching and physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Cortisone injections
- Activity modification
- Shoe modification
- Walking boot
Always remember that foot pain is not normal. If you are experiencing foot pain that is not resolving, make sure to see your podiatrist.