Medical Q&As

Plantar fasciitis - what is it?

Can you tell me about plantar fasciitis? What causes it and can it recur? I had pain in my heel when I put pressure on it but it has now gone.

The term plantar refers to the sole of the foot and fasciitis means an inflammation of the fascia. The fascia is a layer of tissue that is distributed throughout the body and is situated beneath the fat layer that is below the surface of the skin. Therefore plantar fasciitis means an inflammation of the fascia within the sole of the foot extending from the heel to the ball of the foot. This band of tissue forms part of the arch of the foot and acts as a shock absorber. Plantar fasciitis can be quite painful with the pain being largely centred in the heel itself. Poorly fitting shoes are a common cause of this condition and this is particularly important in the case of runners. It is important that people who run either competitively or simply for healthy exercise should wear the appropriate shoes for whichever surface they are due to run on. For example you should wear one type of shoe for running on a hard surface such as concrete and a different type of shoe for running on a grass track. Plantar fasciitis can also result from overuse even if the appropriate footwear is worn. The condition can recur and may become chronic if it is ignored. Rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication are the standard treatments. In some cases physiotherapy may be required and some people may require customised insoles for their footwear. However proper selection of good fitting footwear would prevent most cases that we see in everyday practice.