Patients who visit the Fairfax County podiatry office of Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm with heel pain are not alone. Heel pain, often caused by plantar fasciitis, affects about 10% of all Americans at some point in their lifetime. Here’s what you need to know about this foot problem that affects millions.

Q: Who gets plantar fasciitis?

A: People with certain anatomical or biomechanical issues, including flat feet or high arches, are more likely to suffer from heel pain. It also strikes those who are overweight or who work on their feet for several hours each day, especially on hard surfaces. Runners suffer from plantar fasciitis if they over-train, increase their mileage too quickly, or change the surface they’re running on.

Q: What does it feel like?

A: Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia – the thick band of tissue that covers the entire bottom of your foot. There may be small tears anywhere along the fascia. In some cases, the tissue is so stressed that it’s begun to deteriorate. You might feel pain or burning directly on the heel or more in the arch of your foot.

Q: Why does it hurt so much in the morning?            

A: Overnight, your feet are at rest, and the plantar fascia tightens up, so the first few steps can be really painful. After a bit of walking, the fascia slowly begins to stretch out and relax. Unfortunately, the relief is temporary. Most people find that after a day of activity, the pain returns.

Q: How do you treat plantar fasciitis?

A: After confirming a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis, Dr. Wilhelm will recommend some combination of rest, anti-inflammatory medication, night splints, icing, heel cushions, custom orthotics, steroid injections, and stretching exercises. It often takes weeks or months for heel pain to disappear completely. 

Q: Are heel pain and heel spurs the same thing?

A: Heel spurs are often present with plantar fasciitis, but they’re not the same thing.

Q: How can I prevent plantar fasciitis?

A: Always wear shoes that support your feet and cushion your heel. If you stand on hard surfaces a lot, even at your kitchen sink, always wear shoes. Maintain a healthy weight, so you’re not stressing your feet. Avid walkers and runners should take care to replace their shoes about every 300-400 miles.

If heel pain is interfering with your life, don’t delay treatment. For best results to knock out plantar fasciitis pain, call Clifton Foot & Ankle Center in Centreville, Virginia, at (703) 996-3000 or make an appointment online.

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