The Plantar fascia is a thick connective tissue that runs from the calcaneus (heel) to the heads of the metatarsal bones (to the bases of the toes). When the toes are extended, the PF tenses via what’s known as the Windlass mechanism. When you push-off with your toes when walking or running, the PF tenses, raising your arch, and providing a stable and strong base for your foot. When your foot is flat on the ground when you’re walking, the arch flattens, stretching your PF. You need just the right amount of “give” and flexibility in your arch to be able to handle the stresses you put on it. The plantar fascia helps support your arch, but small tears can occur in it, especially if you have flat feet (over pronator) or high arches (supinator), if you walk, stand, or run for long periods of time (especially on hard surfaces), if you are overweight, if you wear poor/old shoes, or if you have a tight calf or limited big toe range of motion. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation, thickening, or degeneration of the plantar fascia, depending on how long you’ve had the symptoms and where your tissue is at in the healing process. The pain usually occurs at the base of the heel where the fascia connects to the heel bone. It is also common to have stiffness in the bottom of your foot. It’s usually worse when you first step out of bed in the morning or after you’ve been sitting or standing for a long period of time. Over time, you may develop a bone spur on your heel, however bone spurs may not be symptomatic. To help prevent plantar fasciitis it’s important to wear proper shoes, stretch your calves and toes as well as to strengthen the small muscles of your feet. Night splints can be helpful as well as rolling your arch on a frozen water bottle. Be mindful to gradually start or return to activities and stay hydrated.
Ellen Milton, DPT, OCS, COMT
SSM Physical Therapy
219 E. Vandalia St. Edwardsville, IL 62025