What is Plantar Fasciitis?
This debilitating (not to mention annoyingly persistent) injury can happen to runners and walkers alike. And, it’s easier to get rid of than you think. With proper running technique and specific exercises you could be saying goodbye to PF within a month. With over 20 years of experience, advice from medical professionals and hours of research, we’ve done our homework to help you quickly and permanently recover from PF, and avoid it altogether.
Where is the plantar tendon and what does it do?
The Plantar Fascia is a ligament that connects the heel bone to the five metatarsal heads of the foot. It acts much like a fan-shaped bowstring, giving your foot an arch shape. The arches in your feet add cushioning and spring to your feet so they can support the weight of your body without your foot bones being pounded to a pulp when you walk and run.
What is plantar fasciitis and what causes it?
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, where it connects to either the heel bone or to the base of the toes.
It can be caused by any motion of your legs that creates a pull on the plantar fascia. That means walking or running up or down hills, climbing stairs, walking or running on your toes (yes, that includes wearing high heels), or pointing your toes up as your heel comes down with each stride (dorsiflexing).
Other causes of plantar fasciitis:
- Inflexible shoes, worn out shoes, or shoes that bend in the middle instead of the ball of the foot
- Being overweight
- Straightening your leg as it swings forward
- Spending long hours on your feet
- Tight calf muscles or stiff ankle muscles
- Walking barefoot in soft sand for long distances
- Increasing speed or distance too soon
It can also be caused by overstriding and heel striking.
If you’re reaching forward with your legs when you take a stride you’re very likely to land on your heel. This creates a force on your heels of up to 6 times your body weight with each footstep. That is a very small area to be absorbing that much weight. The surface area of your heel is about 2 square inches. If you weigh 125 lbs. and you’re running with a heel strike, that means the force to your heel is…let’s be conservative and say 4 times your body weight. That means that there is 250 lbs./sq. in. of force on your heel with each stride. With that kind of pressure, it’s no wonder you end up bruising the spot where the plantar tendon attaches to the heel.
When the plantar fascia is stretched too much, it forms micro-tears and begins to pull away from the bone. This causes the fascia to become inflamed, and you’ve got fasciitis (inflammation of the fascia).
What does plantar fasciitis feel like?
Stage 1: When plantar fasciitis first appears it can feel like you’ve got a lump in the heel of your sock. No big deal. No pain…just an uncomfortable “thick” feeling right under your heel. I find myself taking out the insole to my shoe to see if there’s maybe a rock trapped underneath. If, after replacing the insole and straightening my sock out, I still feel a lump under my heel, I take it very seriously.
Stage 2: If this goes untreated, you might begin to feel a little tender when you first get up from a chair or get out of bed in the morning. In the early stages the discomfort it will go away once your up and about on your feet. But, as the injury advances into later stages, the tenderness will linger and begin to turn into what feels like little needles sticking you in the bottom of your heel with each step.
Stage 3: Plantar Fasciosis
As the fascia tries to heal itself, your foot can develop scar tissue, which is the body’s way of holding it all together. This restricts the mobility of your foot, reduces blood circulation, and causes deadening where the fascia joins the heel bone. This is called plantar fasciosis, and is a secondary stage, where inflammation no longer exists, but pain is still felt.
NOTE: The treatment for this is NOT to take pain killers or treat it as if it were inflamed. You must do what you can to improve circulation to the injury so that normal healthy tissue can regrow. Once healthy tissue returns, you can then proceed to stretch and strengthen the plantar fascia without fear of a recurrence of your original injury.
Thank you to Dr. Ray McClanahan for helping me to understand the nature of plantar fasciosis.