The plantar fascia is a thick layer of connective tissue that originates from the heel and fans out to the underside of each toe. It provides support to the arch of the foot and serves as a shock absorber during activities like running and walking that require extension of the toes. As the toes extend, the plantar fascia tightens and elevates the arch of the foot.
When a person suffers from plantar fasciitis, the bottom of the foot gets irritated and swells.
Obesity, sudden weight gain, prolonged standing or weight-bearing and overtraining in runners are risk factors for plantar fasciitis. All these activities place increased, repetitive tensile forces on the plantar fascia.
Other risk factors include flat feet and reduced dorsiflexion (upward flexion of ankle) because of improper distribution of load on the fascia.
Heel spurs are found in 50 percent of those with plantar fasciitis, although the mechanism with which they produce fascial damage is unclear. Systemic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and rheumatic disease have also been linked to plantar fasciitis as they lead to changes in the muscular and bony structure of the feet.
Our Approach to Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is treated with rest, stretching and strengthening exercises, special devices to support the foot, and other non-invasive measures. Surgery is considered only if the case is severe and hasn't responded to other treatments.Our team includes highly trained orthopedic surgeons who specialize in the ankle and foot, as well as podiatrists, physical therapists and pedorthists (specialists in modified footwear and supportive devices for the lower leg). Our goals are to relieve pain and restore mobility, so patients can return to their normal lives and the activities they enjoy. We offer doctor's appointments, medical imaging and physical therapy in one convenient location.
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UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.