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Plantar fasciitis: A pain in the foot

Close-up of manicured hands wrapped around the soles of bare feet

Treatment can help relieve this painful foot condition.

Your alarm clock goes off to signal the start of a new day. You throw back the covers and roll out of bed. But you step onto the floor gingerly, knowing your first few steps will be accompanied by severe pain in the heel of your foot.

If your day regularly starts out with heel pain, and it's getting worse, you may have a painful foot condition called plantar fasciitis.

Left untreated, plantar fasciitis can affect how you walk as well as lead to foot, knee, hip and back problems, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

But with the help of your doctor, you can successfully manage plantar fasciitis.

What is plantar fasciitis?

If you have plantar fasciitis, the band of tissue—known as the plantar fascia—that connects your heel bone to the base of your toes is irritated and inflamed. The damaged tissue can cause severe pain in the bottom of your heel that increases over a period of months.

Pain from plantar fasciitis is usually worst first thing in the morning or after sitting for a long time. After a few minutes of walking, the pain usually decreases as the fascia tissue begins to stretch out.

You're more likely to get plantar fasciitis if you're overweight or have foot conditions such as flat feet or high arches. You're also at a greater risk if you walk or run for exercise or have a job that requires long hours of walking or standing on hard surfaces.

Treating plantar fasciitis

According to the AAOS and the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, there are steps you can take to treat plantar fasciitis at home:

  • Avoid going barefoot.
  • Roll your foot over ice for 20 minutes several times a day.
  • Give your feet a rest from extended physical activity.
  • Wear shoes with good arch support and a slightly raised heel.
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Perform exercises that stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles.

If you still have pain after several weeks, your doctor may recommend that you put pads or special orthotic devices in your shoes or wear a removable walking cast for a few weeks. Physical therapy may also be used to treat plantar fasciitis.

If you don't respond to treatment after several months, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Talk to your doctor about what you can do to make those first steps of the day less painful.

Reviewed 8/19/2021

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