Plantar fasciosis is a foot condition characterized by heel pain and pain in your plantar fascia—a strong and dense connective tissue structure on the sole of your foot that supports your foot arch. This condition has historically been called plantar fasciitis because it was believed that plantar fascia inflammation was the principle underlying cause. Plantar fasciosis is a more accurate name for this condition because it involves degeneration—microtears, cell death—of your plantar fascia, not inflammation. See YouTube Video - Plantar Fasciitis or Fasciosis? Active men between the ages of 40 and 70 are most commonly affected by this health problem.
Your plantar fascia ligament helps the bones of your foot absorb gait-related shock. It also holds your toes firmly on the ground as your body passes over your foot. Plantar fasciosis can manifest in people who possess either flat feet or feet with high arches, and it most commonly causes pain or discomfort at the point where your plantar fascia attaches to your calcaneus, or heel bone.
Plantar fasciosis, sometimes known as calcaneal spur syndrome or calcaneal enthesopathy, can involve stretching, tearing, and degeneration of your plantar fascia at its attachment site. In some cases, heel pain at this attachment site may be caused by other health problems, including certain types of arthritis. Your physician may run several tests to help determine the true cause of your plantar fascia pain and the most effective treatment methods to resolve your complaint.
X-rays are a commonly used diagnostic imaging technique to rule out the possibility of a bone spur as a cause of your heel pain. A bone spur, if it is present in this location, is probably not the cause of your pain, but it is evidence that your plantar fascia has been exerting excessive force on your heel bone. X-ray images can also help determine if you have arthritis or whether other, more rare problems—stress fractures, bone tumors—are contributing to your heel pain.
Causes and Symptoms
Inappropriate footwear is the No. 1 cause of plantar fasciosis. Footwear that possesses toe spring and a tapered toe box holds your big toe in an adducted and extended position. In this position, your abductor hallucis muscle—the muscle responsible for moving your big toe away from your foot’s midline—pulls on a foot structure called the flexor retinaculum and may restrict blood flow through your posterior tibial artery, the vessel that carries blood to the bottom of your foot. Tissues in the sole of your feet begin to degenerate as blood supply to this area is decreased.
Other recognized causes of or contributors to this health problem include the following:
- Calf muscle shortening
- Plantar fascia contracture
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Reactive arthritis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Corticosteroid injections
Heel pain is the most common symptom associated with plantar fasciosis. Your heel pain may be worse in the morning or after you have been sitting or standing for long periods. Pain is most common under your heel bone, but you also may experience pain in your foot arch or on the outside aspect of your foot.
Other common signs and symptoms of plantar fasciosis include:
- Mild swelling and redness in your affected area
- Tenderness on the bottom of your heel
- Impaired ability to ambulate
Shoe therapy—finding and wearing shoes that allow your feet to be in their natural position—is the most important treatment for plantar fasciosis. Shoes that possess a flat heel, are wide in the toe box, lack toe spring, and have flexible soles are most appropriate for this foot problem. An increasing number of shoe companies are producing shoes with these design characteristics, but shoes that include all these features are still difficult to find. For some suggested footwear models, see our clinic’s shoe list. Most conventional footwear can be modified by stretching the shoe’s upper, stretching out the toe spring, removing the shoe’s liner, and cutting the shoe at certain key points to allow more room for your foot. Visit your podiatrist to help you with these shoe modifications.
Correct Toes is another helpful conservative treatment method for plantar fasciosis. Correct Toes addresses the root cause of your plantar fasciosis by properly aligning your big toe and reducing the tension created by your abductor hallucis longus on the blood vessels that feed and "cleanse" the tissues of your plantar fascia. Your plantar fasciosis-related pain will diminish when the dead tissue is washed away.
A rehabilitation program, which includes targeted stretches and other exercises, for your foot may be helpful too. Dietary changes and aerobic exercise are particularly important for overweight individuals who have plantar fasciosis. Water aerobics may be most appropriate for those individuals whose pain does not allow them to walk or cycle. Physical therapy may be another helpful treatment modality for this problem, and includes ultrasound, electrical stimulation, contrast baths, and range-of-motion exercises. Massage, acupuncture, reflexology, and magnet therapy are holistic approaches that may be helpful.
For further details about plantar fasciosis, check out “Treatment of Plantar Fasciosis,” written by Dr. Glenn Ingram, ND and our own Dr. Ray McClanahan, DPM.
In his 18 years as a podiatrist, Dr. Ray McClanahan has learned that most foot problems can be corr...