One of those often-painful soft tissue that attaches to heel spurs at the bottom of the foot is called "plantar fascia". Fascia, located throughout the body, is a fibrous connective tissue similar to a ligament. You can see fascia when you handle meat. It is the white, connective tissue separating layers of meat or attaching to bones. The "plantar" fascia in our bodies is that fascia which is seen on the bottom (or plantar portion) of the foot, extending from the heel bone to the ball of the foot. Compared to other fascia around the body, plantar fascia is very thick and very strong. It has to be strong because of the tremendous amount of force it must endure when you walk, run or jump. But while the plantar fascia is a strong structure, it can still get injured, most commonly when it is stretched beyond its normal length over long periods of time. When plantar fascia is injured, the condition is called "plantar fasciitis", which is usualy pronounced either "plan-tar fash-I-tis" or "plan-tar-fash-ee-I-tis." (Adding "-itis" to the end of a word means that structure is inflamed.) It is sometimes known more simply as 'fasciitis'. Plantar fasciitis is the most common type of arch pain.
Flat feet are often hereditary. Arch pain may also be caused by wearing shoes with inadequate support, standing or walking for long periods of time in high heels, or overuse of the feet during work or sports. Being overweight also places additional stress on the feet, especially the arches.
Symptoms include pain which is often described as a burning pain radiating into the arch of the foot, heel and sometimes the toes. Pins and needles or numbness may be felt in the sole of the foot. Pain may be worse when running or when standing for long periods of time and often worse at night. The area under the medial malleolus on the inside of the ankle may be tender to touch.
Your doctor may order imaging tests to help make sure your heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis and not another problem. X-rays provide clear images of bones. They are useful in ruling out other causes of heel pain, such as fractures or arthritis. Heel spurs can be seen on an x-ray. Other imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, are not routinely used to diagnose plantar fasciitis. They are rarely ordered. An MRI scan may be used if the heel pain is not relieved by initial treatment methods.
Non Surgical Treatment
The most effective treatment for foot arch pain and strain is to use an arch support. The arch support sits under the foot and stops the arch of the foot from collapsing, thereby preventing the stretch of the arch pad which causes pain and discomfort. Wearing an arch support in slippers or house shoes can also prevent pain in the mornings when discomfort it most common and severe. Arch supports usually relieve symptoms within a few days.
The soft tissue surgeries usually would include a lengthening of the Achilles tendon, releasing of the plantar fascia as well as tendon transfers. These procedures are usually done in conjunction with bony procedures such as calcaneal osteotomies (to lower the heel bone and get it more under the leg itself), as well as metatarsal osteotomies. These procedures usually involve either cutting or fusion of the bones, and placement of fixation devices to allow the bones to heal. Healing time is usually at least 6-8 weeks and usually the patient must be non-weight bearing during the healing process. These types of surgical corrections are usually reserved for the more difficult, painful and deformed feet. They can require more surgeries down the line. These procedures are usually the last resort after all other modes of treatment have been exhausted (except in children where it is usually best to treat the deformity early). There are many different degrees of high arched feet and these procedures should be left for the more extreme cases. These cases usually require a very high degree of surgical skill and should only be done by those who frequently perform these types of cases.
Foot and ankle injuries are common in sports, especially running, tennis and soccer. But sports enthusiasts can decrease the risk of injury by taking some precautions. Lightly stretch or better yet, do a slow jog for two to three minutes to warm up the muscles. Don't force the stretch with a "bouncing motion." The amount of time spent on the activity should be increased gradually over a period of weeks to build both muscle strength and mobility. Cross training by participating in different activities can help build the muscles. People whose feet pronate or who have low arches should choose shoes that provide support in both the front of the shoe and under the arch. The heel and heel counter (back of the shoe) should be very stable. Those with a stiffer foot or high arches should choose shoes with more cushion and a softer platform. Use sport-specific shoes. Cross training shoes are an overall good choice; however, it is best to use shoes designed for the sport.
Gastroc stretch. Stand on the edge of a step. Rise slowly on your toes. Lower yourself slowly as far as you can until you feel a stretch in your calf. Don?t roll your foot inward or outward. Hold for 1-2 seconds. Reps:10-20 (stop before you fatigue). Soleus stretch. Same as above, but start with your knee bent so that you feel a slight stretch in your calf or achilles. Maintain the angle of your knee throughout the stretch. Bicycle stretch. Lie on your side. Keeping your top leg straight, bring your knee toward your nose until you feel a slight stretch in the hamstring. Maintaining this angle at your hip, start pretending you are pedalling a bicycle with the top leg. Make sure you feel a slight stretch each time your knee is straight. Reps: 10-30 for each leg. If you feel any pops or clicks in your hip or back, try raising the top leg a little (making the thighs further apart) to eliminate the popping. Foot Intrinsic Exercises. Assisted metatarsal head raising. Sit in a chair. Find the bumps at the ball of your foot just before your big toe and just before the little toe. These are the first (big toe) and fifth (little toe) metatarsal heads. Place your second and third fingers from one hand under the first metatarsal head, and the second and third fingers from the other hand under the fifth metatarsal head. Now lay the thumbs from each hand in a diagonal across your toes so that they form a right angle meeting at the nail of the second toe. Your hands are now in position to assist your toes. Keep your toes straight, with the toe pads on the floor. Use your fingers to help raise all the metatarsal heads (the ball of your foot). Do not let your toes curl under keep them long. Now relax. Reps 7-10 for each foot. As this exercise gets easier, let your fingers do less of the work until your toes can do the exercise unassisted. This can take up to three weeks. When your strength has improved to this point, you can progress to the following three exercises, which are best done in stocking feet on a slippery floor. Active metatarsal head raising. Stand with your weight on both feet. Raise your metatarsal heads (the ball of your foot) while keeping your toes from curling under and maintaining your heel on the ground. Relax. Reps 6-7. Do one foot at a time. If you do more reps than you are ready for, you may well develop cramping in your foot. I once had a client who thought if seven reps were good, 10 were better. For good measure, she did the 10 reps 10 times in a day, and then she was unable to walk the next day from having used a set of muscles she had never exercised before. Don?t overdo it.