Plantar fascia is a band of tissue that helps support the arch of the foot. The tissue connects the heel bone to the base of the toes. There is fat in the heel of the foot that covers the plantar fascia. As the body ages, the fat thins, causing a greater chance of injury. The result is severe pain in the heel when weight is on the foot. The injury, called plantar fasciitis, is common in overweight people, physically active people or people who are on their feet for long periods. Pain is worse in the morning because the tissue is tighter from inactivity.
Repeated tearing of the fascia affects its ability to support the arch. Eventually inflammation settles in the tissue, causing pain. People who dance, run, jog or walk can irritate the tissue. Arthritis can cause inflammation in the tendons, which can lead to plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis affects diabetics more than others, though doctors do not know why. Individuals with flat feet or high arches are prone to plantar fasciitis. Women who wear heels put pressure on the Achilles, the tendon attached to the fascia. Age is another factor because as the body ages the arch sags, putting more pressure on the thinning heel. Weight and pregnancy can break down the tissue on the heel, causing heel pain.
Avoid gaining weight and try to maintain a weight that is appropriate for your age and height. Stretch before walking or before any type of exercise. Stretch in the morning when you first get out of bed to loosen the calf muscles, arches and the Achilles tendons. If you run, walk or jog, change your shoes often. According to the Mayo Clinic, runners should change shoes after running 400 miles. Avoid high heels, shoes with low heels and going barefoot. Stick with shoes that have a moderate heel.
If you have plantar fasciitis, apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, three to four times a day. Elevate your feet. Avoid high-impact exercise. Buy orthotic inserts for your shoes to help with shock absorption and arch support. Aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help relieve pain. Speak with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications.