Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation of the Plantar Fascia (The Plantar Fascia is a the thick band of tissue that runs under the arch of the foot. It connects the heel bone to the toe bones).
Sudden or gradual damage can cause micro tears which cause the Plantar Fascia to expand/thicken and therefore cause pain in the heel. Reasons why damage to the Plantar Fascia occurs may include:
Sudden impact damage. This may happen when running, dancing or playing sport. This usually affects younger, more active people.
Gradual damage/wear and tear. This usually affects older people and is where the Plantar Fascia has been gradually damaged over time.
Do you have Plantar Fasciitis.....? The pain usually is felt on the underside of the heel and is often most intense with the first steps when getting out of bed in the morning or after periods of inactivity or rest. Plantar Fasciitis is presented by a sharp stabbing pain at the bottom or front of the heel bone. It is most common to experience Plantar Fasciitis only in one foot however, reports show up to an third of sufferers have it both feet.
A common cause Plantar Fasciitis is over-pronation. This means that with every step we take our ankles roll inward and arches lower. Other factors that play a role include: age, recent weight gain, walking or standing on hard surfaces for long periods of time and last but not least tight muscles and ligaments. In particular tight calf muscles and achilles tendons will contribute to Plantar Fasciitis.
Continuous pulling of the fascia at the heel bone, eventually may lead to the development of a bony growth on the heel. This is called a Heel Spur. It should be noted that spurs are a mere symptom of Plantar Fasciitis; the spur itself does not cause any pain, but rather the inflamed tissue around the spur.
How orthotics help with Plantar Fasciitis
Orthotic insoles are now used as a first treatment option for Plantar Fasciitis by podiatrists, chiropodists and physiotherapists across the UK. Orthotics are corrective insoles and they should not be confused with spongy rubber footbeds, gel heel cups etc available from chemists and supermarkets. Most of these products simply provide cushioning, they do not, however, provide any biomechanical correction!
Orthotics on the other hand re-align the feet, ankles and lower leg. Many of us have quite a normal-looking arch when sitting or even standing. However, it is the impact of weight bearing during walking that has a profound effect on the arches and the ligaments in the foot. With every step we take the arches lower (a lot in some people, a little in others) and this puts strain and tension on the plantar fascia, which in turn leads to inflammation and pain. Orthotics support the arches and release excess strain on the plantar fascia, allowing the inflamed tissue to heal and preventing further damage and micro-tearing of the tissue.
To be effective the orthotic doesn't have to be an expensive, custom-made device. A comprehensive Heel Pain study by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society found that by wearing standard pre-made orthotics and doing a number of daily exercises, 95% of patients in this study experienced substantial, lasting relief from their heel pain symptoms! A recent study in Canada also confirmed the effectiveness of low-cost orthotics in the treatment of plantar fasciitis.