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2M Battle Foot Pain

By on December 18, 2013

Famous athletes like Kobe Bryant, Eli Manning, and Olympic runner, Ryan Hall, all struggle with bouts of plantar fasciitis. But elite athletes aren’t the only ones dealing with this foot problem. In America, plantar fasciitis affects over 2 million people each year. Is this an issue for you?

Every time we take a step, our feet coordinate a complex network of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments to give us momentum. If your feet are in aching pain when you go for a run in the morning or afternoon, and it is an intense, sharp pain in the heel and arch, you are not alone.

Most likely, you are one of the 10 percent of Americans who have an inflammatory condition in their feet known as plantar fasciitis. Even famous athletes from Kobe Bryant to Tim Duncan have suffered from this.

Plantar fasciitis is caused by stress in the foot’s arch tendon, and it can affect anyone. It is one of the most common medical conditions in America, affecting more than 2 million people per year. It accounts for more than 1 million physician visits yearly. Those who are most at risk are athletes, soldiers and overweight people who stand frequently, placing heavy strain on their feet.

Athletes of all levels and abilities are particularly vulnerable, because they are frequently driven to overtrain. Neglecting healthy and recuperative rest leads to chronic strains and tears in ligaments.

Furthermore, with increasing competition from other players to take over starting roles, athletes on a team are pressured to rush through injury rehabilitation. Without proper healing time, an athlete can quickly fall into a cycle of failing to properly heal and re-aggravating inflammatory conditions.

Pathology: Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of pain on the bottom of the heel. The plantar fascia, a fibrous band of tissue that supports the arches, becomes inflamed and irritated.

The plantar fascia is a very thin ligament that connects the heel to the front of the foot to absorb stress and shock that we place on our feet. The direct result of straining this ligament is pain, swelling, weakness and irritation.

plantar-fasciitis-diagramSymptoms: The symptoms are generally noted as an intense sharp heel pain in the first few steps of activity. Sometimes there is occasional relief from pain after a few minutes. But the feet will hurt more as the day goes on, if activity – and weight-bearing pressure – continues. Walking on hard surfaces is especially tough on the plantar fascia.

Relief: Plantar fasciitis is usually difficult to eliminate completely. But treatment is generally nonsurgical and conservative in nature. To reduce pain and swelling, many physicians recommend taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin.

It will also help to do preventive calf stretches several times a day, especially when waking up and beginning daily exercises. Try to not run or walk on hard surfaces, and pick shoes that have good arch support and well-cushioned soles.


Dr. Moshe Lewis MD, MPH, MBA is currently on the Volunteer Clinical Faculty of UCSF. Dr. Lewis specializes in the non-surgical management of musculoskeletal and neurological injuries and diseases.

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