The plantar fascia and its role in the function of our feet
The plantar fascia is a thick tough band of connective tissue that starts at the heel and fans out to the toes under your feet. It is a very important tissue that acts like a spring to absorb shock as well as resisting pressure on the arch to fall flat when you run or walk. It’s a very important tissue that helps to keep your foot functioning properly.
What is the difference between plantar fasciitis and a plantar fascia tear?
Two types of plantar fascia injuries are plantar fasciitis and partial plantar fascia tears.
When you feel pain in the plantar fascia it’ll be very hard to distinguish what you have.
Plantar fasciitis is a gradual inflammation in the plantar fascia and pain usually builds up over time. There’ll likely be micro-tears present when you have plantar fasciitis. Partial plantar fascia tears, however, involve an actual rip in the tissue that occurs during a one off incident.
What does a plantar fascia injury feel like?
Plantar fasciitis is a very common foot condition that affects 1 in every 10 people in their lifetime. With plantar fasciitis, pain could be felt under the heel or in the arch of the foot. Many people report that pain is worse in the morning with the first step and when standing up after sitting for a long time.
Plantar fascia tears or ruptures are relatively uncommon and the person usually remembers the incident when it happened. An audible pop, rip or pull creating a sharp pain in the arch when the foot is placed under immense force would likely be the cause. Some examples we see in the clinic are; A basketballer going from a stationary position to full speed in a short time or a referee transitioning from a mainly low impact/walking position to full running in a short period of time to keep up with the players in the game.
What are the causes of plantar fascia injuries?
Injury to the plantar fascia involves a range of factors and they are listed below:
- Training errors. Doing too much too soon and increasing load onto the plantar fascia before the tissue has had time to adapt to those loads can increase the risk of injury.
- High impact sports. Activities that place more impact and pressure on the feet i.e. running, dance and aerobics.
- Flat-footed, high arches or tight calves. People with flat feet may have reduced shock absorption, increasing strain on the plantar fascia. High arched feet have tighter plantar tissue, leading to similar effects. Tight calves is also a major contributing factor as the foot is placed under increased loads if the calves are not working properly.
- Middle-aged or older. Heel pain tends to be more common with ageing as muscles supporting the arch of the foot become weaker, putting stress on the plantar fascia.
- Overweight. Weight places a greater mechanical load on the plantar fascia. There is evidence that heavy weight and inactivity lead to chemical damage to the plantar fascia, with a worsening of pain.
- Pregnancy. Weight gain, swelling and hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy may lead to mechanical overload of the plantar fascia.
- Being on your feet. People with occupations that require a lot of walking or standing on hard surfaces may suffer plantar fascia pain.
- Wearing shoes with poor arch support or stiff soles. Poorly designed shoes may contribute to problems.
How to treat plantar fascia injuries at home?
Below are some home remedies you can try to reduce plantar fascia pain:
- Improve your calf flexibility. Foam roll it. Get a massage. Do more yoga. Do more calf stretches. This may hurt quite a bit if your calves are tight but it’ll help improve your foot function immensely.
- Apply ice daily for 10-15 mins. If the injury is recent (2-4 weeks) and there is significant swelling and pain then applying a cold compress will help.
- Only wear shoes that give you relief. Be laser focused and picky with what you put on your feet when you have this injury. Your feet are crying out for help, lessen the load on them. Until your injury heals, only wear supportive footwear that relieves your foot pain.
- Rest. Don’t persist with activities that worsen the injury. You should only consider resuming your desired activity (ie. running, long walks) when you’ve had 1 week with no pain.
How can a Podiatrist help?
Plantar fascia injuries can be stubborn and no matter what you do at home, pain relief may not be achieved. This is the time to seek help from a health professional like a podiatrist. Below are treatment options we use at The Footcare Clinic to combat plantar fascia injuries:
- Custom orthotics. These are customised flexible foot inserts that will help provide support and correct mechanical imbalances in your feet.
- Low Level Laser Therapy. This treatment option will speed up the healing process. It achieves these therapeutic effects by interacting with tissues at a cellular level. It does this by increasing blood flow and stimulating the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the treated area so the tissue can undergo the repairing process quicker.
- Shockwave therapy. This treatment option is great for plantar fascia injuries that have been ongoing for 2 months or longer. Shockwave therapy works by increasing blood flow to the area in turn promoting regeneration and fast tracking the reparative process.
- Footwear assessment. Many people are unaware that their shoes are not the right fit for their feet. At The Footcare Clinic we will thoroughly look at your footwear selection and advise you accordingly.
- Manual therapy. We use varying methods of hands-on therapy to help release tight tissues and joints that are inhibiting proper foot function.
If you or someone you know are suffering with pain from a plantar fascia injury, we’d love to help! You will be given a customised management plan on your first consultation so that you’re clear on what needs to be done to get you back to doing what you love sooner. Making an appointment is super easy. You can book online or call our friendly help team on (03) 9711 7562. We look forward to seeing you at The Footcare Clinic.