What is plantar fasciitis?

An inflamed plantar fascia — the rubber band-like ligament that stretches from your heel to your toes — is very painful. Imagine walking around with a strong ache in your heel, a tender bruise on the bottom of your foot, or a stabbing pain that hits you the moment your feet hit the ground in the morning. Now, if you already have it, imagine your pain beginning to go away or disappearing altogether — this too can happen.

The normal foot has 28 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. It does so much! The plantar fascia itself supports the arch of your foot. It absorbs pressure — think of the shock absorbers of your car. It bears your weight. Pain is inevitable when the tissues are inflamed, or partially or completely torn.

The word “fasciitis” means “inflammation of the fascia of a muscle or organ” while “plantar” relates to the sole of the foot. Two million patients get treatment for plantar fasciitis, annually. That makes it the most common cause of heel pain. It’s common especially for athletes — specifically, runners. The repetitive motion of pushing off with your feet can injure the tissues.

How common is plantar fasciitis? Who gets it?

About one in 10 people will develop plantar fasciitis sometime in their lives. Young male athletes and middle-aged obese females get it most often.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

Too much pressure and stretching damages, inflames or tears your plantar fascia.

Unfortunately, there’s no discernable cause for some cases. However, you’re more likely to get plantar fasciitis if:

  • You have high-arched feet or flat feet.
  • You wear shoes that don’t support your feet (especially for a long time on a hard surface).
  • You’re obese. (70% of patients with plantar fasciitis are also obese.)
  • You’re an athlete.
  • You’re a runner or jumper.
  • You work or exercise on a hard surface.
  • You stand for prolonged periods of time.
  • You exercise without stretching your calves.

What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?

Both a dull pain and a stabbing pain have been reported by patients with plantar fasciitis. The symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:

  • Pain on the bottom of the heel, or nearby.
  • Increased pain after exercise (not during).
  • Pain in the arch of the foot.
  • Pain that is worse in the morning or when you stand after sitting for a long time.
  • A swollen heel.
  • Pain that continues for months.
  • A tight Achilles tendon. (80% of people report this symptom.) Your Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel.

Does plantar fasciitis cause pain in the toes?

Occasionally. This is not a usual symptom.

Does plantar fasciitis cause pain in the calf?

Pain in the calf usually comes from muscles that are too tight. If those muscles are tight, that contributes to additional stress on the plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis itself does not cause calf muscle pain.

Does plantar fasciitis cause pain in the ankle?

Plantar fasciitis pain is in the foot but sometimes, if it irritated a nerve, the pain can radiate up to your ankle.

Does plantar fasciitis cause back pain?

People with plantar fasciitis can experience back pain. It’s unclear what causes what. Perhaps your back pain actually results from a change in your posture and walk as you try to avoid pain by not putting full pressure on your foot. Any shift in how your body weight is distributed shifts how your muscles around your hip and leg are used and could cause muscle strain and ache in your back.

Does plantar fasciitis cause arthritis?

You can get arthritis in the bones of your foot, but it is not caused by plantar fasciitis.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy