hand massaging pain in footThe warm weather across our region is making it easier to put those exercise-related resolutions into action. But pay attention to a sore heel that could be more than an out-of-shape muscle. It could be plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain, occurring when the thick band of tissue (called the plantar fascia) that runs across the bottom of your foot between the toes and the heel becomes inflamed. You may have plantar fasciitis if you notice a stabbing heel pain with the first steps you take each morning.

The pain may decrease as you move around, but can flare up again after long periods of standing. You won’t notice the pain while you’re exercising, but may feel pain after performing activities that place stress on the heel (running, jumping activities, dancing, aerobics, for example).

In addition to certain exercises, other factors that can contribute to plantar fasciitis include:

  • Excess weight puts extra stress on the tissue.
  • Plantar fasciitis most often occurs between ages 40 and 60.
  • Occupations that require standing. You risk irritating the plantar fascia if your job requires you stand on your feet for long periods of time.
  • Foot mechanics. Being flat-footed or having a high arch or abnormal walking pattern can affect the weight distribution on your feet, causing stress on the plantar fascia.

If you’re diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, specific at-home treatments can help relieve the pain and improve the plantar fascia tissue.

  • Do regular exercises that stretch and strengthen the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles.
  • Apply ice over the inflamed area three to four times daily (15 to 20 minutes each time). Doing so reduces pain and inflammation.
  • Choose supportive shoes that have good arch support and shock absorbency.
  • Replace old athletic shoes.

Plantar fasciitis can be painful, but with proper steps it can be treated and you’ll be back to enjoying the outdoors pain-free.