Plantar fasciitis

Lesley Dobson / 11 March 2016

Plantar Fasciitis is the name given to a particular type of pain in the heel of your foot. Find out more about the symptoms and treatments.

Our feet bear all our weight, every time we stand up, walk or run. So it isn’t surprising that occasionally they suffer aches and pains.

However, having pain in the heal of your feet can make even slow walking painful. This is because each step you take involves putting your heel down first, and jarring the part of your foot that already hurts.

Pain in your heel can be caused by a number of different conditions.

Related: How to solve heel pain

Plantar fasciitis is the most common, accounting for four out of five cases of painful heels. Plantar fasciitis happens when your plantar fascia, a strong, flexible band of tissue (similar to ligaments), becomes inflamed or damaged.

Your plantar fascia runs under your foot, stretching from your heel bone to the base of your toes. It acts rather like a shock absorber, as well as supporting the arch of your foot.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

You can damage your plantar fascia to the point where it hurts to walk, simply by using your feet.

Having to stand for long periods (at work, for instance) can cause this problem.

It can also happen as the result of years of walking and running, which can cause repeated small tears in your plantar fascia. This build-up of minor injuries can cause plantar fasciitis and cause you pain.

Other causes of damage can include starting to exercise on your feet – walking and running for instance - having done little of this before.

Being overweight or obese, and wearing shoes with little support for the arches under your feet can also cause this condition.

Whatever the cause, plantar fasciitis is fairly common, with about one in 10 people having this problem at some stage in their lives.

Related: Stretch heel pain away

Treatment for plantar fasciitis

If either of your heels is causing you pain, it’s probably a good idea to see your GP. They may suggest over-the-counter painkillers, and losing weight if you are overweight.

They may also refer you to a physiotherapist, who will probably suggest exercise to help ease the problem.

Related: Find out how a physiotherapist can help

Other ways to ease the pain of plantar fasciitis include resting the affected foot as much as possible. Don’t stand up, walk or run for long periods of time. And choose your shoes carefully – go for laced-up shoes that give good support under the arches of your feet.

Shoes with a decent amount of padding at the heels should help protect that part of your foot. You can also buy inserts or insoles to fit into your shoes, to give extra protection. You can buy these from pharmacies, or you can make an appointment with a registered chiropodist or podiatrist (both titles mean the same) who are trained to care for feet. A chiropodist or podiatrist will be able to give you advice on the type of insole that will be best for your feet.

Ask your GP, health visitor or practice nurse if you can be referred to a chiropodist or podiatrist through the NHS. You may be able to have free treatment but this is likely to depend on how seriously your situation is affecting your health.

You may have to pay to see a chiropodist or podiatrist privately. Check to see what an appointment will cost in your area, before going ahead.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.