Plantar Fasciitis Treatment Explained

Nothing hinders your health and fitness goals quite like nagging foot pain. While some passing discomfort in the feet is innocuous, when it becomes an everyday obstacle your performance, motivation, and self esteem can suffer.

One of the most common sources of such pain is plantar fasciitis. It can be debilitating if neglected, but thankfully, there are a number of effective treatments available to those diagnosed with the condition.

plantar fasciitis treatment

What is Plantar Fasciitis?


Plantar fasciitis refers to inflammation or degeneration of the thick, fibrous band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes1. It derives its name from the Latin words for ‘foot sole’ and ‘band’, but has been known by a variety of informal terms over the years, such as “jogger’s heel” and “heel spurs” (the latter being a misnomer)2

Plantar fasciitis manifests itself as a stabbing or dull pain in the feet, typically towards the heel. Symptoms are often worse during the first few steps after waking, though extended periods of sitting or standing can also trigger discomfort3.

It’s estimated that around 10% of the general population will experience some form of the condition in their lifetime. Being so prevalent, it accounts for 11-15% of all foot symptoms requiring professional care4

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Despite promising advances in the treatment of plantar fasciitis, its causes remain poorly understood. There are factors, however, that have been linked to the condition, including:
Overload – Any activity that causes repeated and sustained stress on the fascia can result in small tears, and thereby, inflammation. This can include things like long-distance running, dancing, or even standing for too long on hard surfaces. 
Obesity – Due to the extra strain placed upon the feet, the risk of developing the condition is compounded if the individual is overweight or obese.
Age – Older demographics typically experience reduced elasticity in the structures of the foot, making them more prone to plantar fasciitis5.
Foot Mechanics – An unconventional walking pattern, flat feet, or high arch can result in greater stress on the fascia.
Other Medical Conditions – Sometimes other medical issues such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis may cause plantar fasciitis6.

What Happens if Plantar Fasciitis is Left Untreated?

It’s possible for mild cases of plantar fasciitis to resolve on their own, but when more advanced forms of the condition are neglected, serious complications are likely to occur7. These include:
Improper Movement Patterns – Sufferers often attempt to avoid heel pain by changing how they walk. This can result in foot, knee, hip, or back problems8.
Heel Spurs – Over time, calcium deposits can appear in the pad of the heel, causing even more pain with each step.
Plantar Rupture – This occurs when plantar fasciitis is not addressed, and the sufferer continues to place a great deal of stress on their feet. A ‘moon boot’ or crutches are needed to promote healing after such an event.
Disability – Sustained heel pain may make walking and exercising unbearable, in turn leading to negative health outcomes.
Though plantar fasciitis can certainly be debilitating if left unmanaged, there are a number of medical treatments that allow patients to make a full recovery from the condition. 

What Plantar Fasciitis Treatments Are Available?

As with most bodily issues, early intervention is key to ensuring a speedy and comprehensive recovery from plantar fasciitis. Depending on the severity of the pain, the following treatments may be employed:
Physiotherapy – Strengthening and stretching of the foot muscles and achilles tendon are some of the most effective treatments for plantar fasciitis. A qualified and experienced physiotherapist can show you how to perform these exercises, as well as provide therapies like manual treatment and soft tissue release.
It only takes a few months to resolve most cases of plantar fasciitis with an appropriate physiotherapy plan.
Focussed Shockwave Therapy – An excellent adjunct to physiotherapy, focused shockwave therapy (FST) delivers targeted acoustic waves that reduce inflammation and accelerate healing of damaged tissue. It’s administered via a small hand held device, and is non-invasive.
focused shockwave therapy
A practitioner administering focused shockwave therapy
A 2017 meta-analysis found that when used to treat plantar fasciitis, FST was associated with “higher success rates and greater pain reduction” than a placebo9. A 2020 study in the journal Nature corroborated its effect on pain reduction amongst sufferers of the condition10.
Steroid Injections – If symptoms fail to respond to the above treatments, doctors may recommend steroid injections to quell the inflammation. This can ease the associated foot pain for about a month11.
Surgery – Surgery is rare, and recommended only when alternative therapies fail to relieve heel pain. It involves manually detaching the fascia from the heel bone in order to relieve tension and swelling. While healing, lengthening of the fascia itself is encouraged through growth of new connective tissue12. Three quarters of patients who undergo surgical intervention for plantar fasciitis report less pain than before the surgery13.

What should you do if you experience symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

If you experience symptoms of heel pain, it’s important to consult with a qualified health professional. Foot pain can have many causes so an accurate diagnosis is vital to get you on the correct management plan.
Reliable and experienced foot and ankle physiotherapists, like those at E3 Physio, will be able to provide you with a diagnosis, as well as treat your condition with proven and effective therapies.
At E3, we help patients manage plantar fasciitis through a combination of manual treatment including joint mobilisation and fascial release, stretching, strengthening exercises, and focused shockwave therapy. This multifaceted approach has allowed countless of our clients to overcome foot pain, and return to doing the things they love.
You can reach out to our friendly team via phone, or book an appointment online.