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Plantar Fascia Foot Pain: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Jo has been an ITU nurse at the London North West NHS Trust for 14 years. She obtained her RN at University College London Hospital.

Plantar Fasciitis


A Healthy Foot

Not everyone is blessed with perfect feet, some people have high arches, while others have low arches or flat feet that can lead to heel pain, leg pain and even back pain.

Not everyone is blessed with perfect feet, some people have high arches, while others have low arches or flat feet that can lead to heel pain, leg pain and even back pain.

A Chinese Woman With Feet Unwrapped


Deformity Caused By Foot Binding, An Ancient Chinese Practice


Be Kind to Your Feet, and it Will be Kind to You

Heel pain is a common condition of the foot; in most cases, pain is the result of damage to the plantar fascia, a disorder known as Plantar fasciitis.

From time immemorial, proud parents have cheered with joy as their toddlers progress from all fours to take those first few vital steps.

A baby's first walk is a landmark event that most mums and dads would hate to miss. A child's first walk is an important milestone like the first feed, the first smile and the first spoken words. Walking is a natural process, we've done it most of our lives without having to think about it, but the big question is, are we doing it right?

Just as a well-built building requires a solid structural foundation to stand firm, the human body needs good healthy feet for a lifetime of support, weight bearing and locomotion. An average moderately active person is said to take 7,500 steps/day. If that person maintains the average and lives to a ripe old age of 80 years, he/she will have walked a distance of 110,000 miles.

The human foot is an incredible feat of bioengineering that took over 4 million years of evolution to perfect. According to the experts, we don't give our feet the respect it deserves. Our feet is what carries us along, taking the full weight of the body, allowing us to go about our daily business.

It's true; humankind no longer walks as many miles as our ancestors once did. Not since the advent of the motor vehicles at any rate. However, we are still finding new ways to punish our feet. We began to wear shoes to protect the feet, but protection has evolved into fashion and more imaginative ways to torture our poor feet.

Women mainly are prepared to tolerate excruciating pain in the name of fashion. As late as 1949 the barbaric culture of foot binding was still practised on young women in China. Foot binding was done to achieve the ideal foot length of 3 inches. The practice began in ancient China around the 10th century, when a woman with tiny feet was a highly prized possession. The men at the time saw these women as beautiful and far more desirable. But it also showed that such women made ideal wives because they were uncomplaining. Known as the " Golden Lotus," young women's feet were tightly bound with cotton or silk bandages. In some cases, the toes were folded under the feet, breaking many of the bones at the top of each foot. The ball of the foot was buckled in, then wrapped to the heel.

Fast forward to the present day, while not as extreme, we are still abusing our feet in the name of fashion. Women continue to force their feet into shoes that are poorly fitted, wear ridiculously high heels that squeeze the foot into a painful and unnatural position resulting in malformation, heel pain, bunions, arthritis, arch pain, the ball of foot pain, and a lot of other conditions.

High heel shoes cause the weight to be transferred to the ball of the foot, stretching and damaging the fascia. The shoes we wear can affect out posture, putting the spine out of its natural alignment. Recently published 3-D scans showed the damage that can be caused by wearing high heels. According to the experts, by wearing shoes, we no longer walk correctly. But walking is easy; even a toddler can do it, I hear you'd think so, wouldn't you? Well, think again.

A South African university published the result of a research study in the podiatry journal "The Foot" found that we still haven't perfected the art of walking, in short, the way we walk is wrong, and this is mostly due to our shoes.

The study titled "Shod Versus Unshod" looked at 180 modern humans from three different population groups (Sotho, Zulu, and European) the feet of each group was compared to each other and also to 2000 years old skeletons. The study concluded that before the invention of shoes, people had healthier feet. In the modern subjects, the Zulu population who often goes bare feet, had the healthiest feet, while the shoes wearing European, had the unhealthiest feet.

However, while the Podiatric Medical Association does not suggest that we all go barefoot walking, we need to be conscious of what shoes we wear, since most of the shoes currently on the market are bad for our feet. Most of the shoes we buy provide little or no support, they are often too tight and made from materials that suffocate the feet.

What is Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar refers to the foot, fascia, connective tissue fibre and -itis an inflammatory process.

Plantar fasciitis is the medical term used to describe the painful condition of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a strong, flexible band of connective tissue fibre that runs from the insertion at the heel, where the fascia attaches to the calcaneus or heel bone. The flexible fibre tissue then fans out along the bottom of the foot supporting the arch spreading out to the bones of the midfoot.

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