Plantar Fasciitis

The plantar fascia is the ligament that connects the heel bone to the toes and supports the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis (pronounced fash-she-EYE-tis) occurs when this ligament gets irritated and inflamed. It is the most common cause of heel pain, affecting more than 2 million people every year. 

Plantar fasciitis can be debilitating, and it can take a long time to get better. At the University of Michigan, we have found that most people do well with a special plantar fascia-specific stretching program we have developed and do not require surgery. In fact, 90 percent of our patients resolve their plantar fasciitis symptoms without surgery within 10 months of beginning treatment.

Our dedicated group of foot and ankle experts at University of Michigan South Main Orthopaedics can give you a complete diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan.  

Who's at Risk for Plantar Fasciitis?

Factors that may put you at increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis include:

  • A tight Achilles tendon or calf muscle
  • A high-arched or low-arched foot
  • Working on hard surfaces
  • Running for exercise

Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms

  • Plantar heel pain that is worse with the first few steps out of bed in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
  • Pain tends to initially improve with activity or after you get “warmed up."
  • Pain may worsen with higher-impact activity, such as running.

Diagnosing Plantar Fasciitis

During your office visit:

  • We will take a complete health history, conduct a thorough physical examination to determine the exact origin of pain, and find out if there are other mechanical factors that may be contributing to your discomfort, such as a tight calf muscle.
  • We will also take X-rays of your foot to evaluate your bone anatomy and rule out any other bony cause for your pain, such as a stress fracture.
  • In most cases, further imaging, such as an MRI, is not required, but we will determine this during your visit.

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

Your individualized treatment plan is based on several factors, including your prior treatment, your current level of discomfort and the presence of other medical conditions.

We are proud to report that 90 percent of our patients get better without surgery within 10 months of beginning treatment.

Treatment options for plantar fasciitis include:

  • A stretching program – Specifically targeting the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, the exercises are performed 3-6 times per day, depending on your individualized treatment plan. Continuation of the stretching program even after symptoms resolve is crucial to preventing reoccurrence.
  • A soft, cushioning orthotic – A variety of orthotics, such as a heel pad, can help reduce pain. Custom orthotics are generally not required.
  • A night splint – Wearing a night splint will keep the plantar fascia stretched while you sleep.
  • Ice and anti-inflammatory medications – These may be given as needed to decrease symptoms.
  • Physical therapy – Our Physical Therapy Division uses a team approach with specialized board-certified therapists along with the most advanced techniques for the best outcomes.
  • Cortisone injections – Cortisone injected into the heel can reduce pain and swelling during a flare up.
  • Surgical intervention – This is a last resort if all other treatments have failed. Your University of Michigan surgeon will inform you of the pros and cons of plantar fasciitis surgery, and will let you know why surgery is the best option. 

Contact Us / Make an Appointment

  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR), 734-936-7175

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