The condition known as plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, a dense band of fibrous tissue that extends from the bottom of the heel bone (calcaneus) to the base of the toes (ball of the foot). The plantar fascia is the main support mechanism for the arch of the foot. It attaches to the middle of the heel bone and divides into five sections as it progresses toward the forefoot, each section extending into a toe and straddling the flexor tendons. The condition is often associated with heel spurs, which are protrusions (bumps) that develop along the edge of the heel bone.
Another popular term, “heel spur”, is often used interchangeably with plantar fasciitis. However, even though they are closely related, they are NOT identical. Heel spurs occur as part of the body’s response to inflammation of the plantar fascia. They are not always painful, but if they protrude into the plantar fascia, they can cause irritation and contribute to heel pain.
Pain from plantar fasciitis can best be described as a stabbing or burning pain, akin to a hot nail being driven into the inside area of the heel. It is often most noticeable in the morning when you get out of bed and take your first few steps. That’s because the plantar fascia relaxed and contracted during the night, while the foot is plantar flexed (toes pointed downward); pointing the toes upward (called “dorsiflexion”) causes the fascia to stretch and become irritated again. The pain often diminishes once you have been walking or exercising for a while.
Wearing a night brace can mean the difference between waking up without heel pain. Doctors advise that as part of your therapy wearing a night brace is the easiest and best remedy for avoiding that painful first step in the morning. That’s because wearing a night brace elevates your foot while you sleep. This pre-stretches the tissues in your sole so there is no pain in the morning. A great example is the Stretch-Away Plantar Fasciitis Night Brace. Like other night braces, it eliminates the heel pain before it even starts without expensive splints and therapies. When you wake up and take your first step in the morning, your tissues are already pre-stretched – and this avoids having to stretch out your foot to get rid of the heel pain.