Plantar Fasciitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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Pain in your heels can prevent you from being active, making every task that requires being on your feet more difficult. While there are several potential causes of foot pain, plantar fasciitis is one of the most common, with approximately 2 million Americans being treated for it each year, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

The AAOS states that over 90% of patients with plantar fasciitis will show improvement within 10 months of beginning simple treatments, such as at-home exercises and over-the-counter remedies. Below you can find out what plantar fasciitis is, the symptoms, and how to treat it.

What Is Plantar Fasciitis? 

Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition of the feet when a band of tissue called the plantar fascia, which supports the foot's arch, becomes inflamed. This tissue is a long ligament lying on the bottom of your foot, underneath the skin, and connects the front of your foot to your heel and supports the arch of your foot.

Due to its role in providing shock absorption for all activities you do on your feet, including high-impact ones like jumping and running, the plantar fascia can end up with micro-tears that lead to inflammation. This inflammation causes stiffness and the resulting pain.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

The key symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel pain which is at its worst first thing in the morning, according to  Dr. Sondema N. Tarr, DPM Foot Doctor and Owner of Direct Podiatry Arizona. "This is because the already inflamed plantar fascia experiences micro tears when the person gets out of bed and starts walking around in the morning after being off their feet during sleep for several hours, she explains.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

  • Heel pain (often worse in the morning or after extended rest)
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Pain in the arch and/or along the bottom of the foot
  • Pain (in the arch, heel, or along the bottom of the foot) that worsens after activity, not during

Heel pain also is at its worst after sitting and then getting up to stand or walk for similar reasons. In both of these cases, the pain usually will decrease as the person continues to walk during the day, according to Dr. Tarr. Another symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain that worsens after activity, not during it. If these scenarios are familiar to you, your foot pain may be due to plantar fasciitis.

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis can happen to anyone, whether you're an athlete or live a more sedentary lifestyle. "Plantar fasciitis has many causes, including the shape or structure of your foot," says Dr. Tarr. People with flat arches, tight calves, or who are obese are likelier to experience plantar fasciitis.

However, some common causes of plantar fasciitis make the painful condition more likely to occur. For instance, if you've just started a recreational league basketball team and suddenly feel heel pain, this could be plantar fasciitis.

In fact, any new or increased activity can be a cause, and overuse stress is the most common culprit for developing plantar fasciitis. And some activities are more likely to cause the condition than others, including dancing, running, and any sports that require jumping and high impact on your feet. Some research shows that about 22% of runners will develop plantar fasciitis at some point.

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

  • Stress from overuse
  • Having high arches or flat feet
  • Gaining weight quickly or having excess weight on the plantar fascia due to obesity or pregnancy
  • Exercising, particularly with high-impact activities
  • Increasing activity levels quickly
  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Poor shoe selection
  • Walking, standing, or exercising frequently on hard surfaces

Dr. Tarr says any increase in activity level, a job requiring you to stand for long periods, a sudden increase in weight due to pregnancy, or other changes—poor shoe selection or the types of surfaces you walk or stand on daily can all play a role.

About half of those with plantar fasciitis will also have heel spurs, but spurs are not the root cause of plantar fasciitis. Bone spurs typically form where bones meet and are projections of bone. If you develop bone spurs, surgery may be necessary.

How to Treat Plantar Fasciitis

Since about 90% of people with plantar fasciitis can find relief from the condition, some consistent self-treatment is highly successful. Here are the best ways to treat plantar fasciitis.

"Stretching is the best way to treat plantar fasciitis. Any stretches performed should involve the Achilles tendon and calf muscles. This will allow the patient to gain more flexibility in the back of the lower leg and alleviate plantar fasciitis pain since they all work together," says Dr. Tarr.

Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis

Aside from stretching, rest from the activities that are causing you pain is recommended. Although being sedentary sometimes contributes to plantar fasciitis, resting until the inflammation and pain decrease is a good idea for most people.

Other home treatments for plantar fasciitis include rolling a cold or frozen water bottle under your foot for about 20 minutes three or four times per day and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). A physical therapist can also help you with exercises that can improve your specific symptoms.

It's essential to know the cause of your plantar fasciitis, and if you are unsure, seek advice from a healthcare professional. It could be due to your anatomy, so special orthotics or a change of footwear might be necessary.

What Not to Do to Treat Plantar Fasciitis

According to Dr. Tarr, one of the biggest mistakes people make when attempting to treat plantar fasciitis is not looking at the shoes they are wearing daily. "Unknowingly wearing the wrong shoe size or shoes that are too flimsy will not allow the plantar fascia to heal," she says. 

You also should not continue the high-impact activities that may make the condition worse. Instead, take a break to rest the tissues so that they can recover.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does plantar fasciitis go away?

    Plantar fasciitis can go away, and for about 90% of people, it will resolve with simple treatment. However, some people may require more advanced treatments or surgery for it to go away, especially if bone spurs develop.

  • How long does plantar fasciitis last? 

    The amount of time that it takes for plantar fasciitis to go away depends on several factors. The pain can be gone in several days, weeks, or even months. For some people, the pain can take years if traditional treatment options do not help the pain, according to Dr. Tarr.

  • Does ice help plantar fasciitis? 

    Icing can help with plantar fasciitis. If you use icing as a treatment modality, this should be done 2-3 times a day for about 20 minutes.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Plantar Fasciitis and Bone Spurs.

  2. Buchanan BK, Kushner D. Plantar fasciitis. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022.

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.