One of the most common causes of heel pain is a problem called "plantar fasciitis". Plantar fasciitis is the term doctors use when a part of the foot called the plantar fascia gets irritated or inflamed. The plantar fascia is a tough band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes.
Heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis is very common. It often affects people who run, jump, or stand for long periods. Most people who get this type of heel pain get better within a year even if they do not get treated.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
The most common symptom is pain under the heel and sole (bottom) of the foot. The pain is often worst when you first get out of bed in the morning. It can also be bad when you get up after being seated for some time.
Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better?
Yes, you can!
- Rest – Give your foot a chance to heal by resting. But don't completely stop being active. Doing that can lead to more pain and stiffness in the long run.
- Ice – Putting ice on your heel for 20 minutes up to 4 times a day might relieve pain. Icing and massaging your foot before exercise might also help.
- Exercises – Certain exercises can help with heel pain. Do these exercises every day (see pdf below).
- Pain medication – If your pain is severe, you can try taking pain medicines that you can get without a prescription. But if you have other medical conditions or already take other medicines, ask your doctor before taking new pain medicines.
- Wear sturdy shoes – Sneakers with a lot of cushion and good arch and heel support are best. Shoes with rigid soles can also help. Adding padded or gel heel inserts to your shoes might help, too.
- Wear splints at night – Some people feel better if they wear a splint while they sleep that keeps their foot straight. These splints are sold at some chemists, online or from physiotherapists.
How is plantar fasciitis treated?
The first step is to try the things you can do on your own. But if you do not get better, or your symptoms are severe, you can try:
- Taping in a special way that helps support the foot ( a physiotherapist can do this)
- Special shoe inserts, made to fit your foot (custom orthotics, from an orthotist or podiatrist)
- Injections (that go into your foot) such as cortisone, which can help with the pain
- Wearing a cushioned boot over your foot and ankle (a Camboot)
Some patients also respond well to a treatment called "shock wave therapy". It is considered if other treatments fail.
Surgery is rarely needed, but is an option for patients who do not respond adequately to at least 6 to 12 months of adequate non-operative therapy. Favourable outcomes are reported in more than 75 percent of cases, although recovery time may be prolonged and persistent pain is not uncommon.
Prognosis — The outcome for patients with plantar fasciitis is generally favourable; approximately 80 percent of patients have complete resolution of pain within one year. The favourable natural history of this benign condition should be borne in mind when weighing the potential benefits and risks of unproven and sometimes costly treatments.