Many people experience pain or discomfort starting in the heel of their foot. The heel can be a prime starting point for a multitude of foot problems. In recent years the term plantar fasciitis has become very popular among the footwear and orthotic industries. There are people who say they have plantar fasciitis but may not have actually received a proper diagnosis or workup.

So what exactly is plantar fasciitis?

Simply put, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation occurring in the band of tissue or ligament known as the fascia on the bottom of the foot starting or focused at the heel.

Symptoms associated with plantar fasciitis can range from a simple ache to severe pain along the bottom of the foot starting at the heel. The symptoms tend to feel worse in the morning or after a period of rest. Plantar fasciitis often seems worse when walking in bare feet or in flip-flops and flats. The condition can vary in symptoms and severity based on footwear quality and duration of time on your feet.

Many people may confuse plantar fasciitis as a heel bruise, heel spur, or foot pain. While some patients can have multiple issues in one, there are several differences between each ailment. As previously stated, plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the tissue or ligament. This differs greatly from a heel spur which is typically the enlargement and overgrowth (or spurring) of the heel bone. Generalized heel pain can be associated with trauma, a bone spur, plantar fasciitis, a stress fracture, a full fracture, an altered gait, a bone or tissue tumor, poor shoe selection, or a person’s day-to-day activities (or even their overactivity).

Many common misconceptions related to plantar fasciitis is that it will go away on its own, that it’s the heel bone’s fault, and that it can be resolved quickly and simply. Another falsehood is that over-the-counter orthotics will cure plantar fasciitis. While many brands of non-custom orthotics can improve the symptoms and physical state of the plantar fasciitis foot condition, everyone’s foot and case is unique and should be determined by a professional foot doctor before these products are used.

Plantar fasciitis usually takes a long time to become painful and unfortunately takes a while to get better. There are many treatment options to help improve this condition and can usually be resolved with conservative methods.  Only about 30% of people with plantar fasciitis need to have anything done surgically.

We cannot stress how important it is to see a Podiatrist when heel or foot pain arises. What can be thought of as plantar fasciitis could be something worse or different such as a stress fracture or full break in the bone. In rare cases a tumor in the tissue or bone have been found; all of which require significantly different diagnosis and treatment.