President's Rx: Plantar Fasciitis

As we step into spring, many of us will gear up to spend more time on our feet. But if you're experiencing foot pain from a jog around the block or a day of shopping in your favorite sandals, you may be developing a common condition called plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot all the way to the ball. The fascia's role is to support the arch of the foot, acting like a "shock absorber" for the body. Once the fascia becomes inflamed, pressure from the body's weight causes pain.

The reason it hurts more after prolonged periods off your feet, like after a night's sleep, is because the tissue contracts slightly during inactivity. When you get up and load the fascia with your weight, it stretches — and this causes a painful dance in your first few steps.

Remember these five S's to decrease your risk for developing plantar fasciitis:

Sports. High-impact exercise, like jogging and basketball, can predispose you to plantar fasciitis because it puts a lot of stress on the arch of the foot.

Size. If you are overweight or pregnant, the extra weight can strain the fascia.

Shape. Physical characteristics like flat feet or high arches can actually increase stress on the plantar fascia.

Shoes. Wearing shoes that have stiff, hard heels and little or no arch support puts greater strain on the plantar fascia.

Sickness. Some medical conditions, including arthritis of the feet and diabetes, raise the risk for developing plantar fasciitis.

A vast majority of the time plantar fasciitis can be treated effectively without any surgery. For some people, simply lying back in bed and flexing the feet for 30 to 60 seconds before standing up may be all that's necessary. For others, treatment may include physical therapy, night splints, orthotic shoe inserts or anti-inflammatory medicines.