Heel and Foot Pain (Plantar Fasciitis)

Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of pain under the heel. It usually goes away with time but various treatments may help.

Do you have painful feet? You're not alone - and plantar fasciitis is a really common cause of pain under the heel (calcaneum). This condition affects around one in ten people at some point in their lives. It's also known as 'jogger's heel' - although you don't have to be a runner to develop it. Luckily, it usually gets better in time, but treatment may speed up your recovery. So, what can you do about it? Useful treatment includes rest, good footwear, heel pads, painkillers and exercises. A steroid injection or other treatments may be used in more severe cases.

What is it?

Plantar fasciitis means inflammation of your plantar fascia. Your plantar fascia is a strong band of tissue (like a ligament) that stretches from your heel (calcaneum) to your middle foot bones. It supports the arch of your foot and also acts as a shock absorber in your foot.

What causes it?

Repeated small injuries to the fascia (with or without inflammation) are thought to be the cause of plantar fasciitis. The injury is usually near to where the plantar fascia attaches to your heel bone.

Read more about the causes of plantar fasciitis.

How common is it?

Plantar fasciitis is common. Around 1 in 10 people will develop plantar fasciitis at some time in their lives. It is most common in people between the ages of 40 to 60 years. However, it can occur at any age. It is twice as common in women as it is in men. It is also common in athletes.

What are the symptoms?

Pain is the main symptom and this can be anywhere on the underside of your heel. However, commonly, one particular area is found as the main source of pain.

Learn more about the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor can usually diagnose plantar fasciitis just by talking to you and examining your feet. Rarely, tests are needed if the diagnosis is uncertain or to rule out other possible causes of heel pain. These can include X-rays of the heel or an ultrasound scan of the fascia. An ultrasound scan usually shows thickening and swelling of the fascia in plantar fasciitis.

What is the treatment?

Usually, the pain will ease in time. 'Fascia' tissue, like 'ligament' tissue, heals quite slowly. It may take several months or more to go. However, there is a variety of treatments that may help to speed recovery. A combination of different treatments may help. These vary from rest and simple exercises (most common) to surgery (rare).

Discover more about the treatment for plantar fasciitis.

What is the outlook?

Most people have completely recovered from an episode of plantar fasciitis within a year. However, some of the treatments described above may help to speed up your recovery.

Can it be prevented?

There are certain things that you can do to try to prevent plantar fasciitis, especially if you have had it before. These include:

  • Regularly changing training shoes used for running or walking.
  • Wearing shoes with good cushioning in the heels and good arch support.
  • Losing weight if you are overweight.
  • Regularly stretching the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon, especially before exercise.
  • Avoiding exercising on hard surfaces.

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Author:
Dr Nick Imm
Peer Reviewer:
Dr John Cox
Document ID:
4311 (v44)
Last Checked:
24 July 2017
Next Review:
23 July 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.