Many people dread getting out of bed in the morning—in particular those with plantar fasciitis, a condition characterized by stabbing pain in the heel that tends to be most intense when you take your first steps of the day.
The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that runs from your heel to the base of your toes. Its job is to support the arch of your foot, absorb stress, and give “spring” to your step. Too much stress, which can be caused by running, dancing, standing for long periods on your feet on a hard surface, improper shoes, obesity, and other factors, can lead to irritation and tiny tears in the plantar fascia. That damage, or degeneration, stiffens the plantar fascia and causes pain that is most often felt in the bottom of the heel.
“You see it in runners, in active young athletes, in people who work on their feet all day long, in all walks of life,” says Sean Peden, MD, a Yale Medicine orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon. “But the good news is that it’s generally self-limited, meaning it’s going to go away. It might last three to six months, but there are a lot of things, like stretching, that you can do to manage the pain in the meantime.”
Fortunately, the vast majority of patients with plantar fasciitis respond to simple treatment methods, including rest and stretching exercises. In the rare cases where surgery is required (and after up to a year of trying nonsurgical treatments with no success), Dr. Peden and his colleagues in Yale Medicine Foot & Ankle Surgery are skilled at several techniques.