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Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spur : Differences and Possible Treatments

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a fibrous tissue which begins at the heel of the foot and which covers the entire plantar surface to the toes. It forms a triangle whose tip is at the heel and the base at the sole of the foot. Its role is to support the arch to better absorb shocks during walking, running and jumping.


Why the inflammation?

In most cases, athletes or people with an anatomical abnormality in the foot are more prone to an inflamed plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis often occurs after a prolonged effort, such as a long walk in someone who already has a fragility in the foot. Also, it may be the result of repeated microtrauma. For example, during regular physical exertion with a shoe unsuitable for the physical activity in question.


Typically, pain is located at the plantar surface of the foot when walking or even at rest, when the inflammation is greater. The pain is often of a stretching and / or burning type.


What is a heel spur?

A heel spur is usually the consequence of a chronic plantar fasciitis. When a tendon or fascia is in chronic inflammation, the body reacts by creating a calcification of the inflamed structure to solidify and to avoid tearing. It’s a protection system. But the disadvantage of this system is that it creates a bone growth called osteophyte at the level of the heel bone (the calcaneus). When one walks or puts one’s weight on the heel, it crushes the soft tissues at that level and produces sharp stab-like pain.


Fortunately, plantar fasciitis and heel spurs respond well to physiotherapy treatments. Of course, it is recommended to avoid wearing inappropriate shoes when working or playing sports to avoid recurrence. Also, it can happen that other conditions give plantar fasciitis symptoms. Indeed, the flexor muscles of the toes and long flexor of the hallux (big toe) can often become too tight and create pain that resemble that of plantar fasciitis. The physiotherapist will be able to determine during the physical examination which of the diagnoses is most likely and adapt his or her treatment accordingly.