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How to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis: Tips for Foot Health and Injury Avoidance

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot and ankle conditions. Approximately 10% of the general population suffer from it, and for runners, the percentage can be as high as 22%. Although complete prevention of this issue is difficult, knowing its causes and triggers can help minimize the risk of developing it. 

Here are some tips on how to prevent plantar fasciitis, promote foot health, and avoid injuries.

What is plantar fasciitis?

Think of plantar fasciitis as your foot's way of saying, 'I need a break.' It's an overuse injury that occurs when the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, the fascia, becomes inflamed. This can cause a sharp, stabbing pain that usually occurs at the underside of your heel with your first steps in the morning. Understanding this can help you take the necessary steps to prevent it.

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a condition that can cause various symptoms including: 

  • Sharp, stabbing pain in the heel 
  • Pain after prolonged physical activity
  • Pain that decreases with movement
  • Tenderness in the heel
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness 

While some of these symptoms may be caused by other conditions as well, their presence may indicate plantar fasciitis. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is advisable to get a medical evaluation to determine the underlying cause of your pain.

It's recommended that you consult a doctor to figure out what causes heel pain for an accurate diagnosis. Medical professionals will perform physical examinations, evaluate the structure and function of your foot, and conduct a flexibility test. They may also use diagnostic tools such as X-ray, ultrasound, and MRI (in rare cases) to check for the presence of a spur or a tear in the plantar fascia. By combining the results of these tests and examinations with your medical history, a doctor will be able to diagnose whether the issue is plantar fasciitis accurately.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is a condition caused by overuse. However, some people can perform high-impact activities without getting injured, while others are more prone to injury. There are other factors worth considering, as chance and genetics also play a significant role.

  • New or increased activity: If you have just started partaking in a high-impact activity, you are more exposed to injury than if you have been doing it for some time. Each body part needs to be conditioned independently, and being active, in general, does not necessarily translate to being prepared for a specific activity.
  • Wearing inadequate footwear: This will increase the pressure on your feet and increase the chances of injury. The best shoes to prevent plantar fasciitis have arch support, adequate cushioning, and a firm heel counter.
  • Obesity: Carrying more weight puts more pressure on your feet, which increases the likelihood of injury.
  • The structure and posture of your feet: This is a genetic factor that could also increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Flat feet, overpronated feet, or high arches can make you more vulnerable to this condition.

By studying these ‘causes,’ you’ll already have a better understanding of how to prevent plantar fasciitis. 

Plantar fasciitis exercises

In the previous section, we’ve already mentioned some of the causes, all of which can be countered through intuitive measures.

  • Weight loss
  • Wear supportive shoes with arch support and heel cushioning
  • Take it easy with new activities and with the first few steps of the day

However, there’s one thing that’s not so intuitive - adopting new exercises to condition your feet. 
First, you need to learn a few stretches for plantar fasciitis. The most common are:

  • Towel stretch
  • Calf stretch
  • Plantar fascia stretch
  • Achilles tendon stretch
  • Marble pickup

Then, you need to move on to the exercises that can strengthen the muscles around your feet and ankles, providing additional support and minimizing the chance of injury.

Some of the best exercises for plantar fasciitis are:

  • Towel scrunches
  • Domed arch formation
  • Single leg balance

Since plantar fasciitis affects as much as 10% of the population, anyone can benefit from these exercises. For runners and professional athletes, however, they are essential. You can also do these stretches and exercises even if you don’t have plantar fasciitis as you may develop it at some point.

Plantar fasciitis treatment

While prevention is always the best therapy, your treatment options will fall under three categories when the condition finally develops.

The first category is self-treatment. You can minimize your high-impact activitiesresting more, and applying ice to the affected heel several times per day for 15-20 minutes. Using a ball or frozen can to roll on the heel and arch can also alleviate pain.  This is especially helpful after activities that increase inflammation. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as gel analgesics or antiinflammatory medication can also be used for pain management, but they are not a cure. In addition, investing in supportive shoes and orthotics is highly recommended.

If self-treatment doesn't provide relief, your next option should be conservative treatment with a healthcare provider. This may include corticosteroid injections, formal physical therapy, or a fascia needle debridement. However, it's important to remember that you need a doctor's opinion and prescription for any of these treatments.

Lastly, if conservative treatment options don't help, you can consider plantar fasciitis surgery. This is a last-resort solution, but it does provide a permanent solution to the problem. It's worth noting that the success rate for this surgery is 70-90%.

When exploring your options on how to heal plantar fasciitis, it's important to follow this order. Sometimes, resting and applying ice can be enough to help. However, if the condition persists, more advanced treatments may be necessary.

Wrap up

Ultimately, when looking up how to prevent plantar fasciitis, you must first learn about some of its major causes. What kind of behavior, habits, and activities increase the chance of this happening? 

Plantar fasciitis can be avoided with some changes to your lifestyle and activities

Better shoes, plantar fasciitis stretches, and lower body weight will already drastically reduce the risk of plantar fasciitis. It’s also important to have your feet examined so that you know if you’re exposed to more risk and have to take more measures to protect yourself.

Take the first step towards pain-free steps—explore our expert tips on preventing plantar fasciitis and prioritize your foot health with the Orthopedic Institute of NJ.

This article was reviewed and approved by an orthopedic surgeon as we place a high premium on accuracy for our patients and potential patients.