Injury Tip Sheet: Plantar Fasciitis

Learn what you need to know to help treat and prevent this common foot injury

Kathy Weber, M.D., M.S.
Daphne R. Scott, PT, Dsc
Chicago, IL

Fast facts

  • Affects over 2 million people each year
  • Occurs mostly in individuals between 40-60 years old
  • Is more likely to effect women than men
  • 10% of cases are running-related

What you need to know

What is plantar fasciitis?

  • Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs along the bottom of the foot
  • The plantar fascia connects the heel bone to the toes and when it becomes inflamed or swollen can cause severe pain in the heel
  • Can become chronic if the inflammation is left untreated


Signs & symptoms

  • Sharp pain in the heel, typically complains of pain with first steps in the morning or after sitting during the day
  • Pain localized to the bottom of the heel with or after exercise
  • Pain subsides with rest and often improves after muscles in the foot have been stretched
  • Pain develops gradually and often effects only one foot



When should I see a doctor or other professional?

  • You should see a doctor if the pain continues despite rest, stretching, and icing.  Occurs when there is no weight placed on the foot, pain wakes you from sleep, or if the heel pain is in conjunction with fever, redness, or numbness in the foot
  • Doctors may provide additional stretching exercises, cortisone shots to relieve the pain, or splints to wear at night.  Surgery is rarely offered as a treatment



  • Overpronation and/or flat feet can contribute to plantar fasciitis, especially in conjunction with poor footwear
  • Tightness in the calf muscles can lead to inflexibility in the foot
  • Excessive exercise, especially running on hard surfaces, over overtraining


Risk factors

  • People who are overweight or over the age of forty
  • Imbalanced foot mechanics, such as a difference in leg length or inadequate footwear
  • Exercises that place added stress on the tissues in the foot such as long-distance running, ballet, or dance


What you can do


  • Make sure that shoes have adequate arch support and heel cushioning
  • Avoid overtraining and increase workout increments gradually
  • Stretch the arch of the foot and the calf muscles  prior to and after  exercising
  • Ice after stretching and after your workouts


Recommendations for treatment and rehab

  • Icing the foot for 15-20 minutes a few times daily while taking an anti-inflammatory (if appropriate) can add in reducing inflammation and pain.
  • Stretching the arches, calves, and Achilles tendon multiple times during the day to help increase flexibility
  • Wearing a night splint for plantar fasciitis keeps the foot in a position to reduce tightening of the calf muscles and plantar fascia during sleep
  • Minimize irritation to the heel first thing in the morning by putting shoes on before taking the first step when getting out of bed
  • Upon waking, stretch the feet and toes up toward the head to stretch out the calf and foot before stepping


What can I do to stay active?

  • Non-impact activities such as swimming, cycling, circuit strength training are better choices to minimize pain at the heel during recovery
  • Decreasing running mileage and substituting with cross training

For more information on plantar fasciitis and learn the Six S’s of plantar fasciitis, read our Ask the Expert on plantar fasciitis pain.

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