What is plantar fasciitis?

If you’re arrived at this article, there’s every chance you’ve been to see your GP because of pain in your feet, or more specifically pain in your heel or heels. You may have been diagnosed with a common and painful condition called plantar fasciitis.

So, let’s start with some basic definitions like what it is and how to pronounce it. The plantar fasciitis (phonetically pronounced – with emphasis on the bold text as plan-ter fash-ee-eye-tus) is the most common cause of heel pain in both men and women.

The condition is named from the plantar fascia which is a ligament flat on the base of the foot that connects the ball of the foot and the toes to your heel bone. You can think of it as a band of tissue that holds the bones of your foot together, expanding and contracting when working properly to allow the foot to flex, thus supporting walking and movement.

When we experience pain in our feet, and especially in the heel, it is often due to a strain of the plantar fascia. That strain manifests as pain, maybe at the front or centre of the heel bone, or it may be across the whole base of your foot. The connective tissue that is the plantar fascia has very little stretch and therefore can become inflamed, swollen and thus weakened. This pain can be experienced as an uncomfortable ache or a crippling pain, depending on the severity of the swelling of the plantar fascia, hence the term plantar fasciitis.

The condition is often felt most acutely first thing in the morning on waking when we try to take our first steps or after walking or light exercise. The heel pain may be more extremely if walking or running. The condition will be aggravated for those who have to spend all day on their feet at work or who are used to taking exercise or doing sport that involves running or jumping.

If the heel pain you’re experiencing is severe enough, your GP, who will probably have examined your foot to look out for any bruising and redness, may also send you for an X-ray or even an MRI scan. The reason for this is to rule out any other causes of pain such as a broken bone or a trapped nerve. Your doctor may also look at whether you are flat footed and what sort of support you have within the structure of your shoes. He or she may ask you if you often wear flat shoes or go barefoot. All of these aspects may contribute or point towards a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis.

Based on your answers to the above questions, diagnosis is often made without the need for further investigation, especially if you are able to recognise the following key symptoms yourself:

  • Waking up with pain on taking your first step in the morning
  • Feeling of an ache or bruising in the foot
  • Increased pain after walking or exercise
  • Radiated pain into the ankle
  • Easing of pain after rest or gentle stretching

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Avoiding painful feet – or – How not to get plantar fasciitis!

Believe me, you do not want this condition, not under any circumstances at any time. It is agony, agony to get out of bed in the morning, to walk, to run, to cook dinner at the end of the working day, to enjoy a day on the beach with the children.

If you don’t mind hobbling around like a very old person walking on broken glass, then ignore what I say. But if you have a job where you stand most of the time, especially in high heels, or if you spend long hours walking on hard pavements in soft ill-fitting shoes or if you are a jogger or athlete who allows his or her running shoes to wear out then take heed. Plantar fasciitis is absolute hell.

So what is the first symptom of this painful foot problem? You happily carry on with your usual activities until one day your heel feels very sore. Or maybe it is the ball of your foot. (or both of them – woe betide you if you get it in both feet at once). You notice the pain is very bad when getting out of bed. If you walk any distance the pain gets worse and soon it is the sole of your foot that hurts and sends stabbing shooting pains up your leg. If you have flat feet or fallen arches you might be tempted to blame these. You might even wonder if the bunion you inherited from your mother is the cause but don’t be fooled.

Now is the time to take measures to prevent the condition worsening because if the offending ligament in the sole of your foot weakens and tears you are in big trouble. At the moment you merely have inflammation, which is bad enough, as a result of overdoing the wear and tear on your poor tootsies. To begin with I would suggest resting with your feet up as much as possible. Scour the internet for some well made supportive shoes and junk the worn ones. If standing for long periods try a rubber mat to relieve the stress and spend a few moments before you get out of bed in the morning massaging the Achilles tendon above your ankles and stretching your feet forward and back.

You may have to give up the jogging or at least alternate your running with other sports. Stretch your Achilles tendon before exercise and lose some weight if you pound round the track like an elephant. If all this advice fails and the agony becomes more intense you will give up smiling and consider going to the doctor.

First though, you might try some of those insoles that are designed to support the feet. Then look for some simple exercises on the web, like rolling the foot backwards and forwards on a tin can or a bottle of water. Your family will wonder what you are up to but hey, they don’t have the pain. Any stretching exercise would be good too, with a long stretchy length of material like a towel. The stretching will loosen the tight ligament. Even pulling your foot forward with your hands will help.

These are things you can do yourself but if you are unlucky enough to need the advice of a doctor your interview might go in several ways. He will diagnose the problem and begin by recommending all the measures described above. In a few months, depending on your determination to persist with the exercises the inflammation will subside, the tears will heal and you will be free of the pain.

On the other hand, if you are elderly, he may tell you that growing older inevitably brings a few aches and pains, that you probably have a touch of arthritis and you should take more exercise. He might conclude his nine and a half minutes with you by writing a prescription for painkillers. If this happens you must visit the surgery again and practice your assertion skills because every older person deserves to sail into their declining years as fit as they can possibly be without the curse of chronic pain if it can be avoided. And that is what you will get if plantar fasciitis is left untreated for long years.

Let me tell you of a friend of mine. She is in her seventies and has had foot problems for many years, assuming the pain to be part of growing old. She can no longer enjoy a morning window-shopping in the town. She can drive but must not park too far from her destination because the walk is difficult. She stays mostly at home as going anywhere has become problematic. The rest of her is in pretty good shape but she’s philosophical and accepts what her doctor tells her.

It’s probably too late now. It is likely the ligaments and muscles in her feet and ankles have become stiff and tight with multiple small tears and there probably is some arthritis too. Had she been aware in those early years and taken good advice, even nagged her doctor, she might have been tripping around like a teenager now.

Absolutely brilliant – Margaret Nicolson

Hi

I was a bit sceptical about it doing me any good, as i’ve been in agony for over a year now. The first time i tried it it was very painful afterwards and i thought of giving up, and of course i hadn’t read the brochure then, which does state this might be the case. I persevered, and it’s been absolutely brilliant. My foot is 80% better. I’m not limping as i was, and i get through a long day and night of being on my feet with not much pain, whereas before i used heelease, my foot was agony by the time i would get home late at night. I’ve been telling my friends how fantastic it is, and would highly recommend it to anyone suffering as i am with foot pain on a daily basis. It was just by chance i saw it online as i was looking at a sock at the time, decided to click on it, and downloaded the information thinking it would be of no use whatsoever. Being on a tight budget, and it being £30, i didn’t want to spend that money without being very sure it would help, though the reviews were good. Since you sent me the £5 voucher a few days later, i thought i’d give it a try, and it’s been worth every penny.
Thank you.
Margaret Nicolson

Improved pain after a week – Angie Gray

Hello

I have found it to be very useful in helping me with plantar fasciitis -I was using it 3 times a day for ten minutes and things improved pain wise after a week. I stopped using it as often and the pain increased and also developed the condition in my other foot as well so I’m now back to the three times a day on both feet. My only negative is that the batteries provided ran out very quickly but at least they are rechargeable. I would definitely recommend the product.

Kind regards

Angie

Sent from my iPhone

Thank you for this gadget – Julie Marshall

Hi .

I’m away touring Europe at the moment and so my routine is very different. I cycle most of the time as my foot is too bad to do too much with . Although my specialist tells me that cycling is still using the plantar fascia as much, I rely on my bicycle a lot . I do think this little gadget is helping me. At least I have something other than an ice pack to help sooth me. And I do feel more able the next day. I had plantar fasciitis in my left foot for 5 years. Which was treated with injections (3) and 3 lots of sound wave therapy. I was chronic. This right foot has had plantar fasciitis now for 15 months. I have now retired and so my lifestyle as a full time hairdresser on my feet all day, to a trying to be mobile person ,has had a huge difference on the way I treat my feet and find I can control the usage on my feet . However it is still very life changing because of the huge restrictions I have to put on the usage of my foot. I always start the day with say 5.000 foot steps. And when they are used up I’m off my foot !! Now I can look forward to putting on my heal ease . So thank you for this gadget which as I said before I’m sure helps out . But if you develop anything new I would always be willing to try it out. I would be a really good experiment for you because of my history with this miserable condition.

Julie Marshall.

Sent from my iPad

Would definitely recommend this product – Paul Fidoe

Hello Oliver,

Many thanks for your email, I would be happy to share brief feedback with you. It has definitely helped with my Plantar Fascia by reducing the pain levels (from a 10 down to a 3). It does wear off so it is key to fit in the 3 applications a day as suggested.

It’s simple to use although a little confusing at first trying to fix the strap on the foot.

Would definitely recommend this product

Krgds,

P