Do your heels hurt first thing in the morning? Does the pain subside after a few minutes, only to resurface when you rest and get up again?
You might be experiencing plantar fasciitis, a common and frustrating injury that often afflicts runners and other active adults, leading to pain in the heel and sole of one or both feet.
The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that holds up bones in the bottom of the foot. If it becomes inflamed due to strain or overuse, running and even walking may prove painful.
Orthopedic surgeon Simon Lee, MD, an assistant professor at Rush University Medical Center who specializes in foot and ankle disorders, compares the plantar fascia to the string on a bow and arrow. He says the key to avoiding plantar fasciitis and other foot pain is often as simple as stretching.
"You can't just focus on the heel as being the root of the problem," he says, noting that people with plantar fasciitis often have tight hamstrings and achilles tendons. "If you think of the back, hamstring, Achilles and plantar fascia as a chain, your weak link's always going to be down at the heel," he says.
It's also important to avoid running or walking in worn-out shoes, which can cause or exacerbate foot problems. Experts recommend getting new running shoes after 300 to 500 miles. "Even though shoes may look OK, they're actually running out of cushion and shock absorption," Lee says.
Treatment options may include physical therapy with stretching instruction, gel shoe inserts and night splints--along with rest, time and patience. "When I see people for the first appointment," he says, "I tell them it will take a while to get better."
For stretching tips, visit the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons site.
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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
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