Foot Conditions A-Z
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, a dense band of fibrous tissue that extends from the bottom of the heel bone (calcaneus) to the base of the toes (ball of the foot). The plantar fascia is the main support mechanism for the arch of the foot. It attaches to the middle of the heel bone and divides into five sections as it progresses toward the forefoot, each section extending into a toe and straddling the flexor tendons. Plantar fasciitis is often associated with heel spurs, which are protrusions (bumps) that develop along the edge of the heel bone.
The terms “heel spur” and plantar fasciitis are often used interchangeably; but, although they’re closely related, they are not identical. Heel spurs occur as part of the body’s response to inflammation of the plantar fascia. They are not always painful, but if they protrude into the plantar fascia, they can cause irritation and contribute to heel pain.
Pain from this condition can best be described as a stabbing or burning pain, akin to a hot nail being driven into the inside area of the heel. It is often most noticeable in the morning when you get out of bed and take your first few steps. That’s because the plantar fascia relaxed and contracted during the night, while the foot is plantar flexed (toes pointed downward); pointing the toes upward (called “dorsiflexion”) causes the fascia to stretch and become irritated again. The pain often diminishes once you have been walking or exercising for a while.