Dave Pruszynski PT, DPT
Does it feel like you are walking on broken glass? Were you just singing that Annie Lenox song?
In all seriousness, that is a common descriptor that I’ll hear from my patients dealing with plantar fasciitis. Those first couple steps to the bathroom can be excruciating. Eventually you’re able to put full weight through their foot, but boy does it come back with a vengeance after you sit down for a while and need to stand up to grab something.
Plantar fasciitis can feel that painful! It can also feel more mild, like tightness in the arch of the foot or cramping.
What is your plantar fascia?
It isn’t a muscle. It’s fascia. Fascia is a more fibrous tissue that surrounds all of our muscles and organs. I almost think of it as the seran wrap around our muscles. Your IT band is also fascia.
Your plantar fascia connects your heel bone (calcaneus) to the base of your big toe (Hallux). The plantar fascia functions to help support your arch absorb impact of walking/standing/running
It feels tight, so should I stretch it? The answer is kind of….
Fascia cannot be stretched; however, the “tightness” you feel in your plantar fascia is in response to limitations in flexibility of your calf or big toe. Your plantar fascia is affected by calf tightness, because your calf muscle also attaches to your heel. You also need sufficient extension of your big toe. We use big toe extension to help rock through our foot for walking and running. If we do not have sufficient big toe extension, that will impact the way you load and stress your plantar fascia
Weakness can also contribute
As we mentioned before, your plantar fascia helps with shock absorption with walking and running. If our foot and/or ankle muscles are weak, the plantar fascia has to take on more strain. There are exercises to assist with strengthening your foot and ankle muscles to reduce the tension placed on your plantar fascia.
Not all foot pain is plantar fasciitis
Foot pain can be caused by a multitude of things from benign to more serious. Below is a list of other possible causes
1. Referred pain from trigger points
2. Nerve pain either originating from your back or further along the nerve pathway
3. Strain of muscles in your foot
4. Stress fracture/reaction
This is why it’s important to obtain an evaluation from a physical therapist, so that they may properly diagnose what’s causing the pain in your foot.