What Increases the Risk of Developing Plantar Fasciitis and How Can It Be Avoided?
Posted by Jenn F. on Friday, December 27th, 2013
“I woke up yesterday with excruciating pain in my left arch by the heel,” writes one 71-year-old man in the NY Daily News. “My wife took me to the Emergency Room since I was limping. After x-rays, the ER doc said my problem was that I have a heel spur.” The pain from heel spurs and plantar fasciitis can be so bad that it feels like something is terribly wrong. In reality, the pain is just caused by inflammation and microscopic tears to the plantar fascia tendon that runs along the bottom of your foot.
During a five-year period from 1995 to 2000, approximately 1 million patients went to the hospital and outpatient clinics with plantar fasciitis, which is the most frequent cause of heel pain in adults. Approximately 15% of all podiatrist visits and 9% of all running injuries are related to plantar fasciitis pain. It’s important to review the risk factors so you can have a better awareness of your general health and do your best to prevent this common foot problem.
The following risk factors may increase the odds that you’ll develop chronic plantar fasciitis heel pain:
Age: Are You Over 40?
If you’re over 40 years old, you are more likely to develop heel pain. The fatty pads on the bottoms of your feet are wearing down from years of walking, standing, running, and pressure. Your cartilage is wearing down and your joints are stiffening, which can cause changes in your gait. Weakening of the calf muscles puts further strain on the plantar fascia. Some people age more gracefully than others, but be aware that the risk of plantar fasciitis naturally increases with age.
Gender: Are You Female?
Women are more likely to suffer from plantar fasciitis than men. Perhaps it’s all those years of wearing narrow, pressure-increasing high heel shoes. Years of placing the foot in an abnormal position do take their toll.
Obesity: Are You Overweight?
Gaining weight stretches the tendons of the arch with each step. As the plantar fascia stretches, it weakens and causes pain. One survey found that heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis affects almost a third of people who are overweight. Furthermore, 69% of people with the condition were interested in losing weight to ease the pain.
Hereditary Foot Conditions: Have You Seen a Podiatrist Lately?
Reduced ankle dorsiflexion, high-arched feet, flat feet, excessive pronation, and gait abnormalities are all natural conditions people are born with that can increase their likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis. Look at the bottom of your shoes for clues: are they wearing evenly?
A podiatrist or sports medicine professional can assess your feet to identify which foot problems lie in your future and offer solutions to prevent the onset of pain. For instance, custom shoe inserts can go a long way in providing more adequate support to keep you active and healthy.
Bad Shoe Choice: Are Your Shoes Well-Fitting & Supportive?
Many people are walking around in the wrong type of footwear. If you are always in a pair of flats or flip-flops, you are likely to suffer problems in the future. Even athletic trainers can be made with poor arch support or loose heel counters that affect the body from the feet through the knees and back. Flimsy shoes can cause your Achilles tendon to contract and shorten, which increases the strain placed on your heel tissues.
Fit is important too. It’s best to try on shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are most swollen. You want shoes that are roomy enough that they do not pinch the skin or crowd the toes, but snug enough that they do not cause heel blisters or a walking hazard.
Occupation: Are You On Your Feet All Day?
We tend to see a lot of nurses, teachers, and postal workers for heel pain. Athletes, dancers, and avid runners also suffer lots of foot stress that makes them more likely to experience foot fatigue.
The Bottom Line On Plantar Fasciitis Heel Pain:
One point we can’t stress enough is this: Foot pain is NOT normal! Your first line of defense should be at-home measures like over-the-c0unter arch supports, a new pair of shoes, anti-inflammatory medications, massage, and icing during the first 24 hours of pain.
If you have experienced pain for more than a month, the American Podiatric Medical Association suggests that you see a professional to ask about custom-made shoe inserts, cortisone injections, night splints, foot taping, or even surgery.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera 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.