A dull, annoying heel pain that’s getting worse. A sharp pain in your arch that has you hobbling to keep your stride. Do you have plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot conditions and causes of heel pain in adults. But how do you know if you have it?

Here’s what you need to know about plantar fasciitis symptoms and causes, how it’s diagnosed, and when to see a podiatrist.

What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is the ligament that connects your heel to your toes and helps support the arch of your foot.

What are symptoms of plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis doesn’t look like anything on the outside, but it sure can be felt on the inside. Heel pain is the most common plantar fasciitis symptom. Some people also feel pain in the arch of their foot.

What does plantar fasciitis feel like?

Everyone experiences plantar fasciitis a little differently. But plantar fasciitis pain is often described as:

  • Dull to sharp, stabbing pain in your heel
  • Aching or burning that extends from your heel through the bottom of your foot
  • Pain and stiffness, especially when you take your first steps after getting out of bed in the morning, or if you’ve been sitting or lying down for a while
  • Pain that may become more intense as the day goes on, particularly if you’ve been standing or walking a lot

If you’re feeling a stabbing pain above your heel or back of your ankle, it’s more likely that an injury or Achilles tendonitis is to blame.

Plantar fasciitis causes

How do you get plantar fasciitis? Plantar fasciitis happens when the plantar fascia ligament is strained. This strain causes the ligament to become weak, swollen and inflamed, which leads to heel and arch pain. Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament, too.

What causes that ligament strain? Plantar fasciitis is often caused by repetitive motion or anything that puts a lot pressure on the arch of your foot.

So, activities like running, jogging and walking, or consistent long periods of standing or being on your feet, can often lead to plantar fasciitis.

How do you get plantar fasciitis? Are some people more likely to get it than others?

Anyone can get plantar fasciitis. But you may be more prone to developing it if:

  • You’re overweight
  • You’re between the ages of 40 and 60
  • You’re pregnant
  • You’re a runner – about 1 in 10 runners get plantar fasciitis
  • You’re on your feet for long periods of time, possibly on hard surfaces
  • You walk on the inside of your foot
  • You have high arches, flat feet or a tight Achilles tendon
  • Your shoes don’t fit well, offer arch support or are worn out

How to diagnose plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis can be officially diagnosed by a podiatrist, a doctor who specializes in foot and ankle conditions.

To confirm a diagnosis, your podiatrist will do a physical examination of your foot and ask you to stand and walk around. They’ll also ask you about things like:

  • Your health, past illnesses and injuries
  • Where and when the pain hurts the most
  • Your level of exercise and activity

Oftentimes, X-rays aren’t necessary since plantar fasciitis is ligament inflammation, rather than a bone injury. But depending on your symptoms, your podiatrist may recommend one if they think you may have a plantar bone spur, stress fracture or another issue.

How is plantar fasciitis treated?

The good news is there are effective at-home treatments for plantar fasciitis. And treatment starts with rest.

Since plantar fasciitis is caused by repetitive motion and pressure, you need to lighten the load for your feet to give your ligament time to heal. So, that can mean cutting back on or modifying activities that make your foot hurt.

Other treatments include investing in more supportive footwear and orthotics, no walking around barefoot, wearing night splints, hot and cold therapy, and targeted exercises to strengthen your plantar fascia.

If you’ve been consistently using home remedies for a couple of months, and you’re not seeing an improvement in pain or it’s worsening, a podiatrist may recommend a cortisone injection. In more serious cases, surgery may be an option if conservative treatments have lost their effectiveness.

How long does plantar fasciitis last?

Plantar fasciitis can typically take anywhere from 3-12 months to get better. But how fast you heal depends on your level of activity and how consistently you’re using at-home treatments.

But again, if you’re not feeling relief, don’t wait to get care. Make an appointment with a podiatrist. They’ll be able to rule out other possible injuries and suggest additional treatments or techniques that can speed up your recovery.

Contact a podiatrist to heal your heel even faster

If you think you have plantar fasciitis, start by giving your feet some rest by taking it easy, wearing supportive shoes both inside and outside the house, and staying consistent with your care routine. This will help things heal on their own.

But if the pain doesn’t get better or worsens, or you’re concerned about another injury, schedule an appointment with a podiatrist.