Whether its fighting the post Christmas bulge or a resolution to get more active, New Year is commonly associated with getting fit. Unfortunately the pressure and stress some people put on there bodies while making this drastic change can cause more pain than just “feeling the burn”. One of the most common conditions which can appear as a result of trying to get fit is plantar fasciitis or heel pain.
The plantar fascia is a tough band of tissue which gives the arch of the foot its shape. This tissue runs from the heel to the balls of the foot and allows shock absorption. If, for any reason extra stress is placed upon the plantar fascia it can become painful and swollen with small micro tears developing.
As everyone is different, your foot position and height of arch depend on your biomechanical make up (the bodies structure and function) and how you walk therefore leaving some more of us susceptible to foot pain than others. Those with excessive movement, very low or unusually high arches are usually more at risk. As the level of exercise increases so do the demands on the fascia causing pain either during exercise or the next morning after rest.
Plantar fasciitis is the term given to when the plantar fascia is inflamed. As well as taking up a new form of exercise and your foot posture it can also be caused by:
• Being over weight
• Change in footwear or lack of support in footwear
• Uneven leg lengths causing one to be longer than the other
• Long periods on feet
Typical symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:
• Pain in heels or arch first thing in morning or after rest
• In some cases pain will wear off and lessen after walking.
• Warm or swollen heel or arch
• Can affect one or both feet
• Can gradually get worse
Although in mild cases stretching exercises and a change to more supportive footwear can help to resolve, usually an appointment to assess the foot posture, general stance and walking of the patient is required to determine the reason for developing the pain and how best to treat. During this biomechanical assessment, your podiatrist would assess your joint movement and position, your standing position and your walking to ascertain the best treatment for you. In most cases an insole, called an orthotic, can be used to control movement and prevent excessive stress on the tissues and structures.
How can I prevent myself developing plantar fasciitis?
If you are taking up a new sport or exercise regime and worry you could be susceptible, firstly start by ensuring you have the right footwear for the job. With more and more choices in sports footwear it is understandable to be confused as to what you should be wearing. Specialised sports shops are there to advise you and point you in the right direction. Also build up your exercise gradually. Too much too soon will cause injuries and may prevent you being able to carry on. Have your feet assessed by a podiatrist. If they are concerned they will advise you to have a full biomechanics to determine any problems.