The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band that runs the length of the sole of the foot. The plantar fascia helps maintain the complex arch system of the foot and plays a role in one's balance and
the various phases of gait. Injury to this tissue, called plantar fasciitis, is one of the most disabling running injuries and also one of the most difficult to resolve. Plantar fasciitis represents
the fourth most common injury to the lower limb and represents 8 -10% of all presenting injuries to sports clinics (Ambrosius 1992, Nike 1989). Rehabilitation can be a long and frustrating process.
The use of preventative exercises and early recognition of danger signals are critical in the avoidance of this injury.
The most frequent cause is an abnormal motion of the foot called excessive pronation. Normally, while walking or during long distance running, your foot will strike the ground on the heel, then roll
forward toward your toes and inward to the arch. Your arch should only dip slightly during this motion. If it lowers too much, you have what is known as excessive pronation. For more details on
pronation, please see the section on biomechanics and gait. Clinically not only those with low arches, but those with high arches can sometimes have plantar fasciitis. The mechanical structure of
your feet and the manner in which the different segments of your feet are linked together and joined with your legs has a major impact on their function and on the development of mechanically caused
problems. Merely having "flat feet" won't take the spring out of your step, but having badly functioning feet with poor bone alignment will adversely affect the muscles, ligaments, and tendons and
can create a variety of aches and pains. Excess pronation can cause the arch of your foot to stretch excessively with each step. It can also cause too much motion in segments of the foot that should
be stable as you are walking or running. This "hypermobility" may cause other bones to shift and cause other mechanically induced problems.
Most people with plantar fasciitis have pain when they take their first steps after they get out of bed or sit for a long time. You may have less stiffness and pain after you take a few steps. But
your foot may hurt more as the day goes on. It may hurt the most when you climb stairs or after you stand for a long time. If you have foot pain at night, you may have a different problem, such as
arthritis , or a nerve problem such as tarsal tunnel syndrome.
To arrive at a diagnosis, the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain your medical history and examine your foot. Throughout this process the surgeon rules out all the possible causes for your heel pain
other than plantar fasciitis. In addition, diagnostic imaging studies such as x-rays or other imaging modalities may be used to distinguish the different types of heel pain. Sometimes heel spurs are
found in patients with plantar fasciitis, but these are rarely a source of pain. When they are present, the condition may be diagnosed as plantar fasciitis/heel spur syndrome.
Non Surgical Treatment
Plantar fasciitis can be a difficult problem to treat, with no panacea available. Fortunately, most patients with this condition eventually have satisfactory outcomes with nonsurgical treatment.
Therefore, management of patient expectations minimizes frustration for both the patient and the provider.
The most common surgical procedure for plantar fasciitis is plantar fascia release. It involves surgical removal of a part from the plantar fascia ligament which will relieve the inflammation and
reduce the tension. Plantar fascia release is either an open surgery or endoscopic surgery (insertion of special surgical instruments through small incisions). While both methods are performed under
local anesthesia the open procedure may take more time to recover. Other surgical procedures can be used as well but they are rarely an option. Complications of plantar fasciitis surgery are rare but
they are not impossible. All types of plantar fasciitis surgery pose a risk of infection, nerve damage, and anesthesia related complications including systemic toxicity, and persistence or worsening
of heel pain.
Stretching exercises for the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia are recommend to relieve pain and aid in the healing process. Sometimes application of athletic tape is recommended. In moderate or
severe cases of plantar fasciitis, your doctor may recommend you wearing a night splint, which will stretch the arch of your foot and calf while you sleep. This helps to lengthen the Achilles tendon
and plantar fascia for symptom relief. Depending on the severity of your plantar fasciitis, your physician may prescribe a store-bought orthotic (arch support) or custom-fitted orthotic to help
distribute your foot pressure more evenly.