The plantar fascia is the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot. It connects the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch of the foot. When this tissue becomes swollen or inflamed, it is called plantar fasciitis.
Swelling occurs when the thick band of tissue on the bottom of the foot (fascia) is overstretched or overused. This can be painful and make walking more difficult.
You are more likely to get plantar fasciitis if you:
Plantar fasciitis is seen in both men and women. It is one of the most common orthopedic foot complaints.
Plantar fasciitis was commonly thought to be caused by a heel spur. However, research has found that this is not the case. On x-ray, heel spurs are seen in people with and without plantar fasciitis.
The most common symptom is pain and stiffness in the bottom of the heel. The heel pain may be dull or sharp. The bottom of the foot may also ache or burn.
The pain is often worse:
The pain may develop slowly over time, or come on suddenly after intense activity.
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. This may show:
X-rays may be taken to rule out other problems.
Your provider will often recommend these steps first:
You can also apply ice to the painful area. Do this at least twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes, more often in the first couple of days.
If these treatments do not work, your provider may recommend:
Sometimes, foot surgery is needed.
Nonsurgical treatments almost always improve the pain. Treatment can last from several months to 2 years before symptoms get better. Most people feel better with 6 to 18 months. Some people need surgery to relieve the pain.
Contact your provider if you have symptoms of plantar fasciitis.
Making sure your ankle, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles are flexible can help prevent plantar fasciitis. Stretch your plantar fascia in the morning before you get out of bed. Doing activities in moderation can also help.
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.