Are you experiencing stabbing or aching pain in your heel or along the bottom of your foot that feels the worst in the morning or after rest but subsides with activity? Plantar fasciitis might be to blame. This painful podiatric condition is particularly common among athletes and other active individuals.
Fortunately, if you’re tired of plantar fasciitis pain interrupting your athletic progress and leaving you on the sidelines, there’s good news. Lifestyle and footwear changes, along with regular visits with a skilled sports podiatrist, can get you back on your feet and back in the game.
Here’s what you should know about plantar fasciitis and how Yavapai Foot and Ankle Center’s sports podiatry specialist can help you recover and prevent re-injury.
Understanding Your Anatomy: The Plantar Fascia
The plantar fascia is a strong, thick band of fibrous tissue that runs the length of your foot, connecting your heel bone to the bones in the ball of the foot and toes. Its unique structure allows it to act as a rubber band, which helps the foot absorb shock from walking, running, and jumping, creating the tension that forms the arch on the bottom of your foot.
Plantar Fasciitis and Its Common Causes
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia. Although anything that damages this fibrous band can result in painful swelling, in athletes, plantar fasciitis is typically caused by excessive strain or overuse. This can be due to wide-ranging factors, such as:
- Sudden increase in the duration or intensity of activities
- Repetitive stress associated with high-impact sports and activities
- Improper footwear, especially shoes that lack sufficient arch support or cushioning
- Abnormal foot mechanics, like flat feet or high arches, which lead to uneven weight distribution and strain on the plantar fascia
- Dramatic weight gain, which increases pressure on the feet
- Prolonged standing or walking on hard surfaces
- Tight calf muscles or Achilles tendons, which affect the alignment of the foot
- Age-related degeneration of the plantar fascia’s elasticity
Managing Plantar Fasciitis as an Athlete
Plantar fasciitis can be extremely painful. Thankfully, there are things you can do to keep this condition in check—and in many cases, the cause suggests the solution. Here are a few of the changes we recommend to our athletic patients who struggle with plantar fasciitis:
- Stretch thoroughly before and after each workout or game.
- Increase the duration or intensity of activities gradually.
- Choose athletic shoes that fit well, provide adequate support and cushioning, and are appropriate for your sport or activity.
Home Care for Plantar Fasciitis
In many cases, you can successfully treat plantar fasciitis at home by staying off the affected foot, periodically icing the painful area, and keeping your foot elevated. Over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen help reduce associated pain and inflammation. However, if your heel and sole don’t start to feel better within a week, it’s time to see a sports podiatrist.
How We Help Athletes Struggling With Plantar Fasciitis Get Back in Game
When plantar fasciitis pain doesn’t respond to home care methods, Yavapai Foot and Ankle Center’s knowledgeable and experienced podiatric sports injury specialist, Dr. John (Todd) Cox, DPM, can develop a treatment plan that aligns with your medical needs and athletic goals. We might recommend:
- Physical therapy that includes stretching exercises for the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon
- Custom orthotics, such as shoe inserts or insoles, to mitigate the effects of flat feet, high arches, or other structural abnormalities
- Corticosteroid or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections
- Shockwave therapy