Sharp Heel Pain? You Could Have Plantar Fasciitis.

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on October 3, 2017

If you've ever had plantar fasciitis, you're not likely to forget how much it hurt.

Depending on its severity, this common condition can make it hard to even walk.

What causes this sharp pain in the heel of your foot? An inflammation of the plantar fascia—the tissue connecting your heel to your toes. It can be caused by an injury or too much stress on the foot.

“Plantar fasciitis is probably the most common foot condition we see,” said John R. Clements, D.P.M., chief of podiatry for Carilion Clinic. “It’s more common in athletes and those who are very active because of the stress they place on their feet." 

“It can be disabling for people who are active or who are on their feet a lot,” he added. “Being overweight also raises the risk.”

How can you help prevent this painful condition?

“The most important thing you can do are stretches for the calf and the plantar fascia before and after exercising,” Dr. Clements noted.

He recommends stretching for five to 10 minutes before and after being active.

“Stretching is also the best way to treat plantar fasciitis,” he said. “If you have an active case, do the stretches once an hour.” (See below for examples)

Other preventive measures are:

  • Wear shoes that support the arch and heel. Spend enough time at a good shoe shop to get the best fit.
  • Stay away from most flip-flops or sandals with little or no arch support
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Do ice massages several times a day. Freeze water in a plastic bottle and roll it under your foot.

If you do develop plantar fasciitis, Dr. Clements recommends seeing a foot and ankle specialist who may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or a corticoid steroid injection to help speed recovery.

“The number of people who need surgery is extremely low,” he said.

Most of all, don’t despair. You can rebound from this condition and keep it at bay. It may take a little time and effort, but the results will be worth it.

Stretching Exercises

For the calf:
Lean against a wall with one knee straight and the other knee in front, bent. Then push your hips toward the wall. Hold this position for 10 seconds and relax. Repeat 20 times for each affected foot.

For the plantar fascia:
Sit with one leg crossed over the knee of your other leg. Grasp the toes of your hurt foot and slowly pull them towards you. If you can’t reach your foot, wrap a towel around your big toe to help pull it towards you. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 20 times.

Learn more about how to care for your feet.