Heel pain from plantar fasciitis is a very common problem that can occur at any age. It usually occurs after trauma to the foot and so typically only affects one foot , but can occur on both feet at the same time.
The plantar fascia is an extension of the Achilles tendon which runs under the heel then spreads out across the sole of the foot and inserts into the base of the toes. Its function is to provide shock absorption on the sole of the foot as well as to lift the arch of the foot when walking.
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia which causes pain under the heel or in the instep which is usually worst either first thing in the morning when one gets up or after a period of non-weight bearing rest and one puts weight on the foot. The pain will often initially ease with movement, but after a while overuse will aggravate it too.
It can occur suddenly or gradually develop over time. Its cause is not always clear, but it is usually associated with following either some form of trauma to the area , such as treading on something hard, like a rock or stone, whilst walking barefoot on a beach, or spending too much time on your feet on your feet especially if it’s a lot longer than you are used to whether walking, running or standing, especially if on hard surfaces like pavements).
Inappropriate footwear is a common cause of plantar fasciitis heel pain. Typically very flat shoes with little or no support or cushioning, especially if they have a very thin hard sole, such as womens ballerina style shoes or mens smart leather work shoes, if worn for prolonged periods on hard surfaces. Flip flops or flat thin soled sandals can also be a culprit if over-used.
A sudden stretch to the sole of the foot whilst exercising, for instance if it involves jumping or sprinting in sport (eg. squash, football, martial arts)
Being very overweight can cause heel pain because the physical effect of the weight spreads the foot and overstretches the plantar fascia.
Having a tight Achilles tendon and calf muscles which can result either from lack of exercise or over exercising without being balanced with stretching exercises can also lead to the development of this problem and obviously a combination of any of the above factors.
Heel pain from plantar fasciitis will usually resolve itself if the causes are avoided, but it can often still take months to do so even with conventional medical treatment involving painkillers, anti-inflammatories, gentle physio exercises and rest. Acupuncture, however, can bring about speedy resolution of plantar fasciitis by opening up blood flow to the affected area, breaking the cycle of inflammation and bringing it down, relieving pain and stimulating the damaged tissues to heal often resolving it in half the time.