What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition that causes pain in the heel or arch of the foot. It is caused by excess strain on the plantar fascia, a thick ligament which runs along the bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of plantar heel pain.

What is the plantar fascia?

The plantar fascia is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs under the arch of the foot. It originates at the medial tubercle of the calcaneus (heel bone) and it inserts into the metatarsal heads (bones that connect the toes) under the forefoot. The plantar fascia helps support the arch of the foot and aids foot propulsion when you walk.

What is a heel spur?

A heel spur is a bony growth or protrusion on the bottom of the heel bone. It is caused by excessive traction forces of the plantar fascia ligament at its attachment site to the heel bone. They are often present in long standing, chronic cases of heel pain. Whilst heel spurs are commonly associated with plantar fasciitis not all patients who suffer heel pain symptoms will have them. Also interestingly patients who have no symptoms can still have a heel spurs show up on x-ray.  Therefore heel spurs are more indicative of excessive ligament tension forces on the heel attachment site and don’t always correlate with symptoms.

Do you suffer from plantar fasciitis or heel spur pain?

Signs & symptoms of plantar fasciitis or heel spur pain

The following signs or symptoms may indicate plantar fasciitis or heel spur pain in the foot:

  • An ache or sharp, burning pain on the bottom of the heel or arch of the foot.
  • Pain is often worse on the first step in the morning, or after being seated for a period.
  • Symptoms usually dissipate on walking but in chronic cases pain may be present all the time.
  • Symptoms are exacerbated with activity.
Plantar fasciitis heel spur treatment Camberwell

Causes of plantar fasciitis or heel spur pain

Plantar fasciitis is caused by excessive strain on the plantar fascia ligament, most often at the point where the ligament attaches to the heel bone. In chronic cases there may also be heel spur present on the bone, due to excessive traction from the ligament causing bony reaction and activity.

The most common cause of plantar fascia strain is poor foot mechanics or excess foot pronation (foot rolling in), resulting in a collapsing arch. When the arch of the foot collapses it causes the plantar fascia ligament to elongate resulting in added strain or tension.

Other factors that can increase strain on the plantar fascia include:

  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Pregnancy due to hormone changes and excess weight
  • Tight plantar fascia and tight calf muscles
  • Increase in walking or activity
  • Poor footwear

At our Melbourne clinic our podiatrists mostly see plantar fasciitis or heel spurs in the middle aged population. This is due to weakening of foot muscles that support the arch. Interestingly plantar fasciitis tends to be slightly more common in women compared to men and this may be due to foot strength and footwear choices.

Plantar fasciitis heel spur diagnosis

Plantar fasciitis is easily diagnosed clinically by our Melbourne podiatrists, who are experts in identifying heel pain conditions of the foot. In chronic cases our podiatrists will often use computer gait analysis to help diagnose underlying biomechanical causes of plantar fasciitis and heel spur pain.

An ultrasound scan of the plantar fascia is often useful initially to check for tears and other causes of heel pain. X-rays are rarely required to diagnose heel spurs as the significance of a spur does not change the treatment course. The aim of treatment is to reduce plantar fascia strain regardless if a heel spur is present or not.

Is your heel pain really a case of plantar fasciitis?

There are many other different heel pain conditions that can mimic plantar fasciitis. Often our podiatrists see patients who present with heel pain and who think they have plantar fasciitis, when in actual fact their heel pain is caused by another condition. Other common conditions that cause heel pain include:

  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome
  • Baxter’s nerve entrapment
  • Bruised heel
  • Heel stress fracture
  • Haglund’s deformity (heel bump)

In complex cases of plantar heel pain there is often a component of plantar fasciitis in combination with another heel pain causing condition.

Diagnostic ultrasound helps to identify the cause of your heel pain

At Melboune Podiatrists & Orthotics we understand that accurate diagnosis of heel pain leads to successful treatment. That is why we have invested in the latest technology and are one of the few podiatry clinics to have the convenience of their own diagnostic ultrasound onsite. This allows our podiatrists to measure plantar fascia strain and help detect plantar fascia tears. This gives us a clearer picture on what factors are causing your heel pain allowing us to implement the best treatment strategy.

Diagnostic ultrasound plantar fasciitis heel spur pain

Podiatry treatment for plantar fasciitis or heel spur pain

Our Melboune podiatrsists are experts in plantar fasciitis and heel spur treatment at our Melbourne clinic. We get results because our treatment is focused on treating the cause of your heel pain.

Treatment options at our Melbourne podiatry clinic for plantar fasciitis or heel spur pain can include:

In cases of an acute plantar fascia tear or rupture (a complete tear of the plantar fascia), then more immobilisation is required in the initial phase and treatment may involve the use of a CAM Walker (moon boot).

At our podiatry clinic we have many patients that present with chronic plantar fasciitis or heel spur pain. Often these patients have suffered symptoms for 1-2 years without relief despite trying multiple other treatments. We usually find that these patients always have an underlying biomechanical cause that is yet to be addressed. In these cases custom orthotics specifically designed to treat plantar fasciitis can be of great help.

A podiatrist is the best health professional to identify and address underlying biomechanical causes of plantar fasciitis or heel spur pain.

For more in depth information on treatment please visit our plantar fasciitis treatment page.

Call us Melbourne Podiatrist

Do you need treatment for plantar fasciitis or heel spur pain?

At our Melbourne foot clinic our podiatrists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of heel pain conditions affecting the foot, including plantar fasciitis and heel spur pain.

So if you are suffering from a painful heel spur or you think you may have plantar fasciitis book an appointment with one of our friendly podiatrists today!