What is Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spur?

Massaging Foot for Foot Pain
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Question: What is Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spur?

My heel hurts when I walk and people say it might be plantar fasciitis. I've seen it spelled planters fasciitis or planter fascitis. Any way you spell it, it hurts. What is it and what can I do about it?

About Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is that pain in the bottom of your foot or heel that especially hurts first thing in the morning when you try to get out of bed and stand on it, or after sitting for awhile.

It is caused by wounding the tough fascia connective tissue on the bottom of your foot. This band runs from your heel to the ball of your foot. It supports your arch and it transmits your weight across the bottom of the foot with each step you take.

If the plantar fascia gets bruised or over-stretched, the inflammation causes the heel and foot pain. It can also get partially detached from the heel and a calcium deposit can form -- a heel spur.

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spur

  1. Overpronation: This is excessive rolling of your foot and ankle with each step. Overpronation can be corrected in many cases by wearing motion control running shoes. If you have extreme overpronation or other foot problems, custom or prescription orthotics can correct your gait.
  2. Wearing old shoes: Athletic shoes lose their support and cushioning after 500 miles. If your shoes are a year old and you wear them regularly, they are dead. Get rid of them or you risk injury, including plantar fasciitis.
  1. Overstriding: This means that you take too long of a step in front of your body. Overstriding can also contribute to tight calves and plantar fasciitis.

Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spur

  1. Rest: Once you have plantar fasciitis, you should back off of your walking distance and not walk or run through the pain.
  1. Icing: Use an ice pack on the foot for 15 minutes after walking.
  2. Self-Massage: Massage your foot before getting out of bed in the morning. Use long strokes from the ball of the foot down to the heel.
  3. Night splint: This device holds your foot flexed at night so that the plantar fascia doesn't tighten up and cause that horrible pain as you stretch it first thing in the morning, which can in fact re-injure it.
  4. Orthotics, Heel Cups, Cushions: Your doctor may suggest cushioning heel cups or custom orthotics to relieve the pressure on the injured area.
    More: Top Picks for Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spur Relief: The night splint is number one.

It can take weeks to months for the pain to resolve. If it doesn't go away with conservative treatment, your doctor may recommend a steroid shot into the foot to relieve the pain temporarily, shock wave therapy, or surgery.

Stretches for Plantar Fasciitis

Once the pain and swelling have begun to subside, perform these static stretches three times a day. Continue to use this stretch to prevent recurrence of plantar fasciitis and heel spur.

1. Plantar Fascia Stretch
2. Rolling Stretch
3. Step Stretch
4. Calf Stretch


Lance D. Barry, DPM et al. "A Retrospective Study of Standing Gastrocnemius-Soleus Stretching versus Night Splinting in the Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis," The Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, Volume 41, Number 4, July/August 2002.

Plantar Fasciitis, American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS)

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