Plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition causing heel pain. Want to know the cause of its flare-ups? Read on and let’s discover how to manage it as well!
Plantar fasciitis is a common painful foot condition worldwide. In fact, millions of people have it.
Although its causes differ per individual, several factors have proved to increase the risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Wearing the wrong footwear and underlying medical conditions are some of its causes. By knowing them, we can properly manage the pain and other symptoms and even prevent more flare-ups!
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
If you haven’t heard of the plantar fascia before, it’s a thick tissue located at the bottom part of the foot. It provides support to the arch and functions as a shock absorber.
Many factors can inflame the plantar fascia and cause plantar fasciitis. Specifically, you’ll experience pain in the arch of the foot especially when you walk or run.
Usually, pain and discomfort occur first thing in the morning or when you’re resting for a long period. In fact, there are severe cases where heel spurs develop that exacerbate the symptoms. When you’re at this stage, you have no choice but to wear special types of supportive shoes designed to address heel spurs.
Seeking treatment for plantar fasciitis is very important. Some natural treatments include strengthening exercises, stretching, and heat or cold therapy. Wearing the right shoes, and even resting are very useful treatment methods as well.
Over-the-counter pain relievers would also work if approved by your doctor. In a worst-case scenario, surgery may even be necessary but let’s hope you won’t have to reach this part.
Common Causes of Plantar Fasciitis Flare-Ups
As we've mentioned above, plantar fasciitis can be very uncomfortable and painful at the foot arch or heel. Moreover, it can result in flare-ups triggered by several factors, such as overuse of the plantar fascia, poor footwear, tight calf muscles, obesity, high-impact activities, and even other medical conditions.
Let's dig deeper into these causes!
Overuse of Plantar Fascia
When we're talking about plantar fasciitis, perhaps the most common cause that we can name is the overuse of the plantar fascia. As its name implies, it happens when there's too much strain on the foot.
What are some of those activities that tend to strain the plantar fascia? Here are some examples:
Prolonged Sitting or Standing: When you're a teacher, a waiter, or retail worker who spends most of the time standing up, chances are, you're going to be putting too much strain on your plantar fascia. This continuous pressure on your feet will lead to inflammation and ultimately, plantar fasciitis.
Long Distance Walking: Yes, even walking can put pressure on your heel, and walking long distances can also result in overusing the plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis usually happens especially when you walk on hard surfaces such as concrete without supportive sneakers.
Running: This activity applies even more stress to the feet, specifically to your arches and heels. And after running dozens of miles on uneven surfaces or with an improper stride, plantar fasciitis is likely to develop. It's not limited just to runners, however, as other athletes like soccer players & lacrosse athletes are equally as susceptible to the condition.
Jumping: Athletes such as volleyball and basketball players can strain their plantar fascia due to frequent jumping. The force applied to the feet from repetitive jumping and landing can cause pain and inflammation on the bottom of the foot, especially if there are weaknesses in other parts of the lower leg.
Poor Choice of Footwear
Another common cause of plantar fasciitis is a poor choice of footwear. Shoes that do not provide adequate arch support can cause the plantar fascia to stretch excessively, leading to inflammation that can cause the pain.
Let's look at some examples of footwear that can increase the risk of developing plantar fasciitis:
High-heeled Shoes: These shoes place excess pressure on the plantar fascia. Over time, you'll surely suffer from inflammation accompanied by pain and severe discomfort to your heel or foot arch if you don't alternate between heels and comfortable sneakers.
Poor Arch Support: Shoes with arch support are very important as they maintain your foot alignment, thereby reducing pressure applied to the plantar fascia. Unfortunately, if you're wearing shoes that don't offer enough support to your arch, your foot will flatten and this will only bring more strain.
Tight Shoes: Anything that's too tight is never good for you, and wearing tight shoes is not an exemption. This will limit your foot to move naturally, bring more pressure to your plantar fascia, and inevitably lead to inflammation. Make sure to buy shoes that are wide enough for your foot to prevent everyday pain, plantar fasciitis, and other conditions like bunions.
You don't buy shoes just because they look great, though that's important too. Your footwear needs to fit properly and provide sufficient support to your feet, especially to your arch and heel.
Tight Calf Muscles
Another common cause of plantar fasciitis is tight calf muscles. Why is that?
The plantar fascia connects to the calf muscles by way of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon connects the heel bone to the calf muscles, where the plantar fascia serves as the tissue that comprises the Achilles tendon.
And when your calf muscle is tight, it affects everything connected to it, including the plantar fascia. Early on, you may notice subtle foot pain in the morning, along with limited ankle mobility. If you don't massage & stretch your calf to reduce tension, however, you can expect the pain, inflammation, and mobility to loosen.
Aside from the added tension, tight calf muscles may also disrupt how the foot touches the ground whenever you're running or even just walking. This can lead to lesser shock absorption but greater force, and of course, it adds more stress to the plantar fascia.
Obesity is one of the most common triggers for a plantar fasciitis flare-up, and it's easy to see why. The additional weight requires more support from the bones, muscles, tendons, and tissue in the feet.
Oftentimes, your arch will begin to flatten out, or “fall," stretching the plantar fascia and pulling it away from the heel bone. If it sounds painful, that's because it is - this will result in inflammation and micro-tears in the tissue.
Additionally, the plantar fascia will also have a more difficult time recovering from an injury when you're obese, given the limited range of motion, added weight, and poor circulation.
Similar to the other causes we mentioned above, there are specific high-impact activities that can trigger a flare-up:
Jumping: Volleyball, basketball and other activities that involve a lot of jumping place excessive force on the plantar fascia, specifically at the time when the foot lands or propels upward with a lot of force.
Running: If you have a poor running posture or don't wear the right footwear, continuous running can strain your plantar fascia due to the impact of your foot striking the ground.
Aerobics: Of course, aerobics can also cause exacerbation of plantar fasciitis especially if it involves a lot of high-impact movements.
However, you need to know as well that high-impact activities are not bad for your health. Engaging in regular exercise is essential for proper health maintenance! To minimize the potential of injuries, like plantar fasciitis, you should regularly strength-train your muscles to aid in impact management.
If you have a history of plantar fasciitis, you may need to consult a medical doctor to modify your exercise routines and prevent injury.
Unfortunately, plantar fasciitis can also develop if you have pre-existing medical conditions. Here are some examples:
Diabetes: If you have diabetes and are not properly managing it, you'll suffer from decreased blood flow in your feet and risk potential nerve damage, both of which increase the likelihood of a plantar fasciitis diagnosis or flare-up.
Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and plantar fasciitis are often misdiagnosed because of the overlapping symptoms, despite RA being an auto-immune condition. However, the inflammation associated with RA affects the entire foot, specifically the heel, which in turn can cause plantar fasciitis to flare up.
Ankylosing spondylitis: A type of arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis mainly affects your spine. However, it can also trigger pain and inflammation and pain in your feet as well as plantar fasciitis.
Nevertheless, you need to understand as well that just because you have the above-mentioned conditions, it doesn't mean you're guaranteed to develop plantar fasciitis. The point here is to raise your awareness about the possibilities and risks, and for you to take precautions to manage the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.
Tips on How to Avoid Plantar Fasciitis Flare-Ups
Time for some good news! Thankfully, there are a lot of tips we can use to prevent flare-ups of plantar fasciitis. Check out some of them:
- Engage in regular stretching and proper exercise
- Wear the proper footwear
- Always take a break when engaging in high-impact activities
- Minimize walking or even standing for prolonged periods
- Maintain a good weight
- Manage your pre-existing conditions
To wrap up, take note that plantar fasciitis is a common condition around the world. It has several causative factors that can lead to flare-ups if not properly managed, such as:
- Poor footwear
- Tight calf muscles
- High-impact activities
- Pre-existing medical conditions
If you have this condition, you need to manage it properly to avoid flare-ups and maintain healthy and pain-free feet!
How do you stop plantar fasciitis flare-ups?
You can prevent plantar fasciitis flare-ups by: getting enough rest, minimizing high-impact activities, practicing ice therapy, regularly stretching, and wearing the right footwear. You must remember to identify the underlying cause of the abrupt onset of your plantar fasciitis. That way, you can immediately seek a healthcare provider to help you manage your symptoms and prevent complications.
What are the 3 causes of plantar fasciitis?
Although several factors lead to the development of plantar fasciitis, the 3 most common are: overuse of plantar fascia, wearing poor footwear, and overly tight calf muscles
What is the fastest cure for plantar fasciitis?
To be honest, there's no single answer to this question since the causes of plantar fasciitis can vary as well as its severity. The best tip for the fastest healing would be to take a break from strenuous exercises and activities. You can also engage in daily exercise and stretching. Oh, and don't forget your regular visit to your podiatrist!
Why do I have plantar fasciitis all of a sudden?
Here are some possible reasons why you suddenly developed plantar fasciitis: abruptly increasing physical activity, changing footwear, overly tight calf muscles, recently injuring your foot, or an underlying medical condition.
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Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Plantar Fasciitis.” Www.hopkinsmedicine.org, 2022, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/plantar-fasciitis
Petraglia, F. “Plantar Fasciitis in Athletes: Diagnostic and Treatment Strategies. A Systematic Review.” Muscle, Ligaments and Tendons Journal, vol. 7, no. 1, 2017, p. 107, https://doi.org/10.11138/mltj/2017.7.1.107
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