Heel pain is most often caused by plantar fasciitis, a condition that is sometimes also called heel spur syndrome when a spur is present. Heel pain may also be due to other causes, such as a stress
fracture, tendonitis, arthritis, nerve irritation, or, rarely, a cyst. Because there are several potential causes, it is important to have heel pain properly diagnosed. A foot and ankle surgeon is
able to distinguish between all the possibilities and determine the underlying source of your heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the band of tissue (the plantar fascia) that extends
from the heel to the toes. In this condition, the fascia first becomes irritated and then inflamed, resulting in heel pain.
The cause of plantar fasciitis is often unclear and may be multifactorial. Because of the high incidence in runners, it is best postulated to be caused by repetitive microtrauma. Possible risk
factors include obesity, occupations requiring prolonged standing and weight-bearing, and heel spurs. Other risk factors may be broadly classified as either extrinsic (training errors and equipment)
or intrinsic (functional, structural, or degenerative). Training errors are among the major causes of plantar fasciitis. Athletes usually have a history of an increase in distance, intensity, or
duration of activity. The addition of speed workouts, plyometrics, and hill workouts are particularly high-risk behaviors for the development of plantar fasciitis. Running indoors on poorly cushioned
surfaces is also a risk factor. Appropriate equipment is important. Athletes and others who spend prolonged time on their feet should wear an appropriate shoe type for their foot type and activity.
Athletic shoes rapidly lose cushioning properties. Athletes who use shoe-sole repair materials are especially at risk if they do not change shoes often. Athletes who train in lightweight and
minimally cushioned shoes (instead of heavier training flats) are also at higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
Patients experience intense sharp pain with the first few steps in the morning or following long periods of having no weight on the foot. The pain can also be aggravated by prolonged standing or
sitting. The pain is usually experienced on the plantar surface of the foot at the anterior aspect of the heel where the plantar fascia ligament inserts into the calcaneus. It may radiate proximally
in severe cases. Some patients may limp or prefer to walk on their toes. Alternative causes of heel pain include fat pad atrophy, plantar warts and foreign body.
Your doctor will check your feet and watch you stand and walk. He or she will also ask questions about your past health, including what illnesses or injuries you have had. Your symptoms, such as
where the pain is and what time of day your foot hurts most. How active you are and what types of physical activity you do. Your doctor may take an X-ray of your foot if he or she suspects a problem
with the bones of your foot, such as a stress fracture.
Non Surgical Treatment
Teatment of plantar fasciitis can be a long and frustrating process for both the coach and athlete. If you do not have a firm grasp of the goals of this rehabilitation program your best advice will
be to find a professional who routinely deals with athletic injuries. The "down time" for plantar fasciitis will be at least six weeks and up to six months of conservative care before drastic
measures like surgery should be considered. The goal of this rehab program is to initially increase the passive flexion of the foot eventually leading to improvements in dynamic balance and
flexibility of the foot and ankle, followed by a full return to function.
In very rare cases plantar fascia surgery is suggested, as a last resort. In this case the surgeon makes an incision into the ligament, partially cutting the plantar fascia to release it. If a heel
spur is present, the surgeon will remove it. Plantar Fasciitis surgery should always be considered the last resort when all the conventional treatment methods have failed to succeed. Endoscopic
plantar fasciotomy (EPF) is a form of surgery whereby two incisions are made around the heel and the ligament is being detached from the heel bone allowing the new ligament to develop in the same
place. In some cases the surgeon may decide to remove the heel spur itself, if present. Just like any type of surgery, Plantar Fascia surgery comes with certain risks and side effects. For example,
the arch of the foot may drop and become weak. Wearing an arch support after surgery is therefore recommended. Heel spur surgeries may also do some damage to veins and arteries of your foot that
allow blood supply in the area. This will increase the time of recovery.
While there are no sure ways to prevent plantar fasciitis, these prevention tips may be helpful. Keep your weight under reasonable control. Wear comfortable, supportive shoes. Use care when starting
or intensifying exercise programmes.