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Close up of the heel of a foot

How to Recognize Plantar Fasciitis

By: Adam Mistr, ATC

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot injuries experienced by runners and many athletes in general. It can become a debilitating injury if it is not treated in a timely manner, but it can be easily managed and possibly even prevented.

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue in the foot that runs along the sole of the foot, connecting the calcaneus (heel) to the metatarsal heads (base of the toes). A common overuse injury occurs when this band becomes inflamed and irritated over time. This is one of the most common causes of heel pain experienced by athletes of all levels of experience. Pain is primarily felt where the fascia attaches to the calcaneus, but pain through the arch is also common.

If ignored, the pain can become chronic causing you to alter your gait patterns which in turn can lead to knee, hip, and back problems. If treated early enough, the pain can be managed, and a return to sport can be very quick.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a normal route to take in order to reduce the pain associated with plantar fasciitis. Stretching, strengthening, NSAIDs, and orthotics can all be used to help combat the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. In more severe cases, steroid injections and surgery could be warranted.

Stretching is the best way to help alleviate pain associated with plantar fasciitis. As the fascia becomes inflamed, it becomes very tight and decreases your ability to stand on your toes. The best way to stretch is to pull the toes upward to elongate the fascia. This should be done before and after performing exercises for the foot.

Common exercises to help in the treatment and management of plantar fascia include massaging your foot with a golf ball or frozen water bottle. This exercise can help reduce the inflammation and increase the range of motion of the foot and toes.

The use of shoe inserts or custom orthotics can provide the arch and plantar fascia additional support to help in the reduction of pain and inflammation. Over the counter inserts can be found at your neighborhood drug store or sporting goods store. A custom orthotic is made from a mold of your foot and is done in your doctor’s office. These are more expensive, but can provide much better support than an over-the-counter version.


The best treatment for plantar fasciitis is prevention. If you experience any heel or arch pain, you should begin with rest from your current level of activity. Incorporating toe stretches into your pre- and post-workout stretching routine can help decrease your pain. Those that suffer from chronic plantar fasciitis should consider orthotic inserts for athletic participation if not for everyday use. With the proper treatment and care, plantar fasciitis can be managed with minimal time missed in your respective sport or activity. Should you begin to experience any of the signs and symptoms associated with plantar fasciitis, please see your certified athletic trainer at your school, or call your primary care physician to schedule an appointment for evaluation of your symptoms and injury.


About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.