Plantar FasciaPronounced as "plantar fash-ee-a"
Plantar means "Foot", Fascia means "Band"
The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs along the bottom of the foot. The ligament is a very thick band of tissue that extends from the bottom of the heel bone (calcaneus) to the base of the toes. The plantar fascia is made of thick, fibrous connective tissue that is able to stretch slightly. The primary function of the plantar fascia is to support the arch of the foot and facilitate the foot's movement.
The plantar fascia ligament acts much like a rubber band. It creates tension in order to maintain the arch of the foot. When you take a step, the foot impacts the ground and causes the plantar fascia to stretch out, lengthening the foot. When the heel lifts from the ground you adjust yourself on your toes as you shift your weight to your other foot, causing all your weight to be held up by your plantar fascia. Since the plantar fascia is an essential part of movement, medical ailments associated with the ligament can cause severe pain and make walking very difficult.
Due to its central function in the movement of the foot, many problems with the plantar fascia can arise. With increased weight or stress on the plantar fascia ligament, plantar fasciitis can develop. This condition occurs when tears in the ligament's tissue become inflamed as a result of too much, or repetitive stress. Heel spurs are also a common ailment that occurs where the plantar fascia attaches to the heel bone as the ligament pulls away under excessive stress. Pronation, or having flat feet, is another common problem that occurs when the arch of the foot collapses. This upsets the alignment of the foot and ankle and can cause pain and discomfort not only in the foot, but also in the knee and lower back.
Some factors that may lead to strain or injury of the plantar fascia are:
- Biomechanical factors, such as abnormal inward twisting (pronation), high arches, flat feet, or tight tendons at the back of the heel (Achilles tendons)
- Repetitive foot use, walking or running on hard surfaces, or excessive exercise
- Being overweight, or having sudden weight gain
- Shoes that are unsupportive or are poorly cushioned
- Arthritis in the foot, which develops mainly among middle-aged and elderly persons
- In rare cases, a single, traumatic injury to the foot, or plantar fascia, can lead to a number of painful ailments