Hobbled by heel or sole pain? You could be dealing with plantar fasciitis, an aggravating condition that makes up about 15 percent of all foot injuries. Known in the podiatry world as the "flip-flop disease," this injury is more prevalent in the summertime due to its link to unsupportive shoes. Read on for the symptoms and causes of plantar fasciitis, as well as how to treat this pain in the foot problem.
WHAT IS PLANTAR FASCIITIS?Reach for the bottom of your foot. Feel a thick band running from your heel to your toes? That's your plantar fascia, which supports your arch and acts like a rubber band running between the heel and the ball of your foot. When the plantar fascia gets inflamed, you may experience sharp, shooting pain and tightness at the base of your heel or on the bottom of your foot, making standing and walking barefoot (especially in the morning) extremely difficult.
WHAT CAUSES PLANTAR FASCIITIS?It's not called the "flip-flop disease" for nothing: The plantar fascia is easily irritated from excessive walking or standing in shoes lacking arch support including -- yep, flip-flops. Trauma (by stepping on something sharp or landing funny on your heel), overuse (too much running, walking, high-impact aerobics or standing), and sometimes just plain bad luck -- it sometimes appears inexplicably -- can also be culprits.
TREAT YOUR FEETIf you think you have plantar fasciitis, see your podiatrist immediately. You will want to start treatment right away to avoid further pain and a potential bone spur, which may develop where the band attaches to your heel. Most likely, your doc will prescribe rest -- meaning no running or walking until the pain subsides -- as well as a variety of treatments, including physical therapy to loosen the tight plantar fascia and reduce its pull on the heel. Meanwhile, at home, you should ice the sore area and roll your foot with a massage bar (a tennis ball works well, too). You can also try these plantar fascia stretches to loosen up the tight tissue. Finally, toss out those flimsy flip-flops and invest in some supportive summer shoes. And to read more about taking care of your feet, check out Keep your feet pain-free this summer!