The elastic covering on the sole of the foot--the plantar fascia--runs the length of the foot and holds up the arch. When this shock-absorbing pad becomes inflamed, this is called plantar fasciitis, causing a dull ache along the length of the arch. The ache is due to over-stretching or partially tearing the arch pad. This happens most often to people with rigid, high arches. They feel the pain when they put weight on their foot or when pushing off for the next stride. Pain is particularly intense upon arising or after sitting for a long while. Plantar fasciitis is particularly common among middle-aged people who have been sedentary and who suddenly increase their level of physical activity. Runners are most susceptible, but almost any sport that keeps the athlete standing can lead to arch pain. Inappropriately fitting shoes or a weight gain of 10 to 20 pounds can also contribute to the condition.
The arch of the foot is the concaved, mid-section of the sole. While it only spans an inch or two in most adults, this one small area of the foot bears nearly all of your weight when you walk, and helps to transfer this weight from heel to ball. Just beneath the skin on the sole of the foot, a tough, elastic ligament called the plantar fascia extends from your heel bone to the metatarsal area of the foot. This ligament is designed to bounce gently with the spring of your step, but a number of factors can cause it to become unhealthy. These include. An abnormal walking gait. Vigorous high-impact exercise such as running, playing tennis or basketball. Being overweight. Wearing shoes that slant or cramp any part of the foot. Wearing shoes that have worn down in the heel or sole. A traumatic injury to the foot, including cuts, bruises, strains and fractures. The presence of arthritis or other inflammatory conditions. The normal aging process. In the presence of any of the above factors, the plantar fascia ligament can begin to flex beyond its normal range of motion. Small tears may develop in the tissue and inflammation is commonly present. You may describe your arch pain as sore, sharp, tender, intermittent, constant, burning, tingling or aching. All of these adjectives may be signs that you are experiencing a condition called Plantar Fasciitis.
Intense heel pain, especially first thing in the morning and after a long day. Difficulty walking or standing for long periods without pain. Generally, the sharp pain associated with plantar fasciitis is localized to the heel, but it can spread forward along the arch of the foot and back into the Achilles tendon. While severe cases can result in chronic pain that lasts all day, the most common flare ups occur first thing in the morning, making those first steps out of bed a form of torture, and in the evening after having spent a day on your feet. Overpronation (a foot that naturally turns too far inward), high arches, and flat feet (fallen arches) can all cause similar arch pain. In these cases, however, the pain is more likely to continue throughout the day rather than being worst in the morning.
In people with flat feet, the instep of the foot comes in contact with the ground when standing. To diagnose the problem, the health care provider will ask you to stand on your toes. If an arch forms,the flat foot is called flexible. You will not need any more tests or treatment. If the arch does not form with toe-standing (called rigid flat feet), or if there is pain, other tests may be needed, including a CT scan to look at the bones in the foot. MRI scan to look at the tendons in the foot. X-ray of the foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
For mild pain or aching, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) may be effective. When there are no symptoms, treatment is not needed. If a child older than age 3 develops symptoms, the doctor may prescribe a therapeutic shoe insert made from a mold of the child's foot or a corrective shoe. As an alternative, some doctors recommend store-bought arch supports. These appear to work as well as more expensive treatments in many children. With any conservative, nonsurgical treatment, the goal is to relieve pain by supporting the arch and correcting any imbalance in the mechanics of the foot. Surgery is typically offered as a last resort in people with significant pain that is resistant to other therapies.
In adults, the most common cause of collapse is due to the posterior tibial tendon tear. In such cases, the tendon must be repaired and a second tendon may be added to the posterior tibial tendon for strength and added support. If the foot is found to be very flat, bone realignment procedures or possible bone fusion procedures may be used to realign the foot. If the calf or Achilles tendon are found to be tight, they may be lengthened to allow better motion at the ankle and less arch strain. The forefoot may also be in a poor position and stabilization of the arch may be necessary to increase forefoot contact to the ground.
Stretch and strengthen important muscles in your feet, ankles and legs in order to guard against future strain. Make sure to acquire suitable arch supports and inserts if necessary, and that your shoes are shock absorbent and in good condition. Wearing tattered shoes provides no protection, and runners should replace their footwear before exceeding 500 miles of usage. Athletes new to arch supports should gradually build their training routine, allowing their feet to become accustomed to a new stance.
You may start exercising the muscles of your foot right away by gently stretching and strengthening them. Frozen can roll. Roll your bare injured foot back and forth from your heel to your mid-arch over a frozen juice can. Repeat for 3 to 5 minutes. This exercise is particularly helpful if it is done first thing in the morning. Towel stretch. Sit on a hard surface with your injured leg stretched out in front of you. Loop a towel around your toes and the ball of your foot and pull the towel toward your body keeping your leg straight. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat 3 times. Standing calf stretch. Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at about eye level. Keep your injured leg back with your heel on the floor. Keep the other leg forward with the knee bent. Turn your back foot slightly inward (as if you were pigeon-toed). Slowly lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat 3 times. Do this exercise several times each day. Seated plantar fascia stretch. Sit in a chair and cross the injured foot over the knee of your other leg. Place your fingers over the base of your toes and pull them back toward your shin until you feel a comfortable stretch in the arch of your foot. Hold 15 seconds and repeat 3 times. Plantar fascia massage. Sit in a chair and cross the injured foot over the knee of your other leg. Place your fingers over the base of the toes of your injured foot and pull your toes toward your shin until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot. With your other hand, massage the bottom of your foot, moving from the heel toward your toes. Do this for 3 to 5 minutes. Start gently. Press harder on the bottom of your foot as you become able to tolerate more pressure.