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What is Plantar Fasciitis? Understanding Heel Pain

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series intended to equip you with an enhanced understanding of plantar fasciitis (or morning heel pain) so that you can make informed decisions regarding treatment and recovery.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Many people suffer from a painful condition whose name is hard to pronounce, and which for most people, just as difficult to heal from: Plantar Fasciitis (pronounced: Plantar Fa-cee-I-tis). This is a painful condition of the foot often described to feel like an ice pick in the heel during the first few steps in the morning, or after periods of rest. The sharp pain typically lessens after a few minutes or after a few very painful steps. During the active hours of day the pain may decrease to simply an uncomfortable, achy feeling usually described to feel like a bruise or soreness in the heel. While plantar fasciitis may cause pain anywhere along the arch of the foot, it is most commonly experienced in the heel area, and often only affects a single foot.

Understanding Plantar Fasciitis is Key to Your Recovery

What is plantar fasciitis? Typical heel pain locationThe underlying condition is the result of damage to the tough connective tissue (known as the fascia) which runs along the bottom of the foot and serves as a “shock absorber” for normal movement, including weight bearing, walking and running.

The Plantar Fascia

The plantar fascia is the strong connective tissue connecting the ball of the foot to the heel bone. This tissue is widest and strongest near the ball of the foot and it tapers to its thinnest (and weakest) near its attachment to the heel bone.

The plantar fascia works in conjunction with other bones of the arch of the foot, mediating the impact for every step we take. The plantar fascia stretches and rebounds as the foot interacts with the ground – vital for ensuring the proper functioning of the foot – as well as supporting the healthy, overall mechanics of the body.

Plantar Fasciitis Explained

Repetitive or excessive tensile stress in the fascia can lead to small tears in the tissue that cause plantar fasciitis. These small tears result in inflammation, which in turn causes pain. If healthy tissue on the bottom of the foot is damaged (as in plantar fasciitis) the body responds by inflaming the area around the damaged tissue. During periods or rest or sleep the inflammation accumulates, contributing to the excruciating pain experienced during the first few steps in the morning. As one stands or walks for a few minutes, the local inflammation is forced to disseminate back into the surrounding tissue. This typically helps reduce the severity of pain experienced throughout periods of activity, until the next prolonged period of rest. However, pain upon first standing is most often a clear sign of damaged tissue.

The amount of damaging stress placed on the fascia is influenced by age, activity level, degree of flexibility (for example, tightness of calf muscles), body weight, foot structure and the supportiveness of footwear.

diagram-color-pf

Avoiding Plantar Fasciitis

The key to avoiding plantar fasciitis is to manage the stress placed upon the fascia. To a certain extent, this stress can be managed by:

  • maintaining good flexibility, especially in calf muscles
  • managing body weight
  • limiting sudden changes in activity levels
  • always wearing supportive foot wear.

However, plantar fasciitis inflammation, once it occurs, can persist for months, even with conventional treatments and reasonable attempts to manage plantar stress (as listed above). Under most treatment protocols, relief from plantar fasciitis pain has been difficult to achieve. Because feet are continuously in use, re-injury is a very strong possibility unless the patient is immobilized. The reality is that most conventional treatments fail to create the right conditions for a satisfactory recovery.

By providing continuous support to the injured fascia, FasciaDerm’s patented system brings fast heel pain relief, a significant reduction in daily fascia stress and all-day comfort – without requiring bed rest or immobilization.

So, to summarize our introduction to Plantar Fasciitis:

  1. Symptoms – Sharp pain, usually in the heel, and most severe in the morning or after periods of rest. Plantar fasciitis most commonly occurs in a single foot.
  2. Causes – Repetitive or excess stress on the plantar fascia, influenced by age, activity level, flexibility and footwear choices.
  3. Prevention – The risk of developing plantar fasciitis can be minimized by managing weight, avoiding sudden changes in activity levels, maintaining flexibility and wearing supportive foot wear.

Next: Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis

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