The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Another Plantar Problem: Ruptured Plantar Fascia

Posted by on Monday, July 30th, 2012

We’ve talked a lot about plantar fasciitis, or the strain on your plantar fascia that causes inflammation and heel pain. However, plantar fasciitis isn’t the only trouble out there faced by your poor, scrappy little plantar fascia. Your plantar fascia can actually rupture.

Rupture? That sounds pretty extreme. A rupture is pretty extreme! Note that you have never heard anyone refer to a “minor rupture” or “mild rupture.”

First, just remind me what the deal is with the plantar fascia. There is nothing I would love more. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that connects the forefoot to the heel. It runs under the arch of the foot, so as you can imagine, it takes a great deal of the weight of your body with every step you take or even when you just stand. It’s a lot like a bridge. That’s why plantar fasciitis is so common–your plantar fascia puts up with a lot so it’s easy for it to become inflamed.

So what’s up with a rupture? A rupture of the plantar fascia is much more extreme than plantar fasciitis. The strain that causes the inflammation of plantar fasciitis is a tiny tear or series or tears, somewhat like thin threads ripping in a pair of stockings. A rupture is a big tear.

How does that happen?!! Typically a rupture of the plantar fascia will come from some kind of traumatic event, such as jumping or falling and landing hard and direct on your foot. Sprinting at a high speed could also tear the plantar fascia from the extreme push off and positioning of the foot with each step. People with tight calf muscles are also prone to plantar fascia ruptures (and plantar fasciitis).

However, it seems like the tear doesn’t just come from the single event; rather, something may have weakened the plantar fascia. For example, there are medications that are associated with tendon or ligament tears. Steroids such as prednisone or antibiotics like Cipro have been known to weaken tendons or ligaments, which may cause a plantar fascia to tear when it otherwise might not have ripped. So if you’ve been taking any of these drugs, be careful about the amount of stress you put on your plantar fascia.

What are the symptoms? Pain in the arch of your foot, of course, both during activity or even while at rest. There may also be swelling or bruising in the area. People often report hearing a “popping” sound when the tear occurs, like a balloon bursting or if you think about it (which either means a) the popping sound is very loud b) these people have very good hearing or c) they happened to have their ear near their foot when the injury happened; I vote “c”).

It’s common for people to confuse a rupture of the plantar fascia with plantar fasciitis. If you have been treating suspected plantar fasciitis, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better, then you might have a rupture of the plantar fascia. To get an accurate diagnosis, though, you should have your foot examined by a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900).

How is a rupture of the plantar fascia treated? First you need to take weight off it. A podiatrist may put your foot in a cast or more likely in a walking boot for a few weeks. Ice helps and pain medication such as Tylenol is fine. After your foot is out of the boot, your podiatrist may recommend some stretches for your foot and your calf muscles.

When you start to put weight on it again, it’s a good idea to mix impact activities such as running with non-impact activities like swimming. Luckily, surgery is rarely required for a rupture of the plantar fascia.

So there! It’s not fun to have a ruptured plantar fascia but if you do take care of it properly, you’ll be fine. Protect your plantar fascia!

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.