What Is The Plantar Fascia?
The plantar fascia is the ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. It's what supports the arch and protects the bottom of your feet.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis is caused by straining the ligament (plantar fascia) that supports the arch. When this ligament is strained, it becomes weak, swollen, and irritated. This causes pain on the bottom of the foot or in the heel. This pain may be noticed more in the morning when first standing up but may start to subside after moving around. However, the pain may return after extensive standing. This is fairly common in older people, over-weight people and people that spend a great deal of time on their feet. It is commonly caused by footwear that does not properly support the arch of your foot. In many cases, excessive pronation (feet roll inwards) can be a cause of plantar fasciitis.
If the pain is continuous it may not be Plantar Fasciitis. Plantar Fasciitis is often mistaken for arthritis and tarsal tunnel syndrome. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a pinching of the tibial nerve. This is a nerve that stretches down the back of the leg to the inner ankle. This is a mix of nerves, muscles and ligaments. Often the tibial nerve can get pinched or trapped. When this happens, numbness, weakness or tingling may happen in the sole or arch of the foot.
Always consult a doctor when having discomfort to this magnitude.
What Can I Do For My Plantar Fasciitis?
There isn't an easy cure or a treatment that will resolve the problem. A new, well-fitting pair of shoes will go a long way to help. The type of shoe will vary from person to person. The important thing to keep in mind is the amount of support a shoe provides. It's helpful to rest the affected foot as much as possible. There are exercises that can be done to assist with the pain such as toe and calf stretches several times a day. Applying ice also helps relieve the pain.
What Shoes Are Best For My Plantar Fasciitis?
One important thing to understand is that even if the shoe looks ok from the outside, it may be past its prime. What can't be seen is how the structure inside the shoe / boot is worn out. The part of the shoe that supports the arch and heel can wear out long before the rest of the boot.
The important thing to look for is a shoe with great supportive qualities. Many shoes offer a solid built-in arch support and heel cup. A heel cup is a support that wraps around the heel of the shoe. This and a solid mid sole in the shoe/boot helps with lateral support helping to reduce any pronation.
Since no two feet are the same, there is no one shoe that will solve the issue for everyone - every foot is different and every pair of shoes are built different. Getting a custom arch insert (orthotic) that matches the foot's shape is by far the best. This may require working with a doctor or Podiatrist for a custom made orthotic. However, there are numerous generic over-the-counter orthotics to try that are less expensive and may provide the effect of a custom made orthotic. For best results, the over-the-counter orthotic should be worn in the shoe for basically every step for several weeks and only taken off for sleeping or showering. After a few weeks, the pain should subside and the continuous wear can be tapered off. However, wearing orthotics may always be necessary.
The amount of padding needed in the arch support will depend on the individual foot. Many people try soft spongy insoles or heel pads that make their feet feel better initially. But in most cases, a soft spongy insole is not the best. It may feel good at first, but the compression from long periods of standing quickly decreases the support this type of insole offers. It's important to get an insole specifically built for arch support.
In closing, Plantar Fasciitis pain is very real. There are many thing you can do to help relieve and cure the pain. There are exercises, stretching, and in very rare cases, surgery. But one of the most important things you can do to help with the pain is wear the right shoes that give you the most support possible and an orthotic to support your arch.
About the author
Dave, now retired, was the Director of Sales & Operations for Lehigh CustomFit.