Plantar Fasciitis Causes and Risk Factors Explained

An Introduction to Plantar Fasciitis Causes and Risk Factors

Plantar fasciitis causes sufferers debilitating heel pain and frustration. It is one of the most common complaints of patients that visit the sports podiatrist. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia ligament, which runs along the base of the foot, becomes inflamed or irritated. This strong and fibrous ligament connects the base of the heel bone to the base of the toes and functions to support the arch of the foot and distributes forces as a person walks or runs. With repeated strain, micro-tearing occurs, leading to inflammation and heel pain and/or arch pain in the patient.

Plantar Fasciitis Causes Patients Heel Pain and Arch Pain

Plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed based on symptoms and history. Patients often report that their plantar fasciitis causes them the worst pain first thing in the morning as they rise from bed. The pain is commonly described as burning, stabbing, or sharp, like a nail in the base of the heel. Burning or tightness may also be felt through the arch of the foot. Quite commonly, patients report that their pain subsides after some time of moving around. It may feel very painful again if the patient starts to walk after a period of sitting or standing in one spot for some time. Patients do not usually have pain during exercise, and this sign is often something that differentiates plantar fasciitis from other conditions that may be causing heel or arch pain.

Plantar Fasciitis Causes and Risk Factors Explained

Plantar Fasciitis Causes Explained

There are a number of circumstances, or risk factors, which can lead to a situation where the condition develops and plantar fasciitis causes heel or arch pain for the patient. Understanding that the development of the condition is multi-factorial is important; many health professionals fail to address all possible plantar fasciitis causes in their patient, and therefore in many cases, their treatment fails. This is not always the case though! The sports podiatrists at the Sydney Heel Pain Clinic are incredibly experienced in addressing the causes and treating plantar fasciitis in people of all ages and levels of participation in physical activity. We have detailed for your information, just some of the many plantar fasciitis causes that we consider when preparing a treatment plan for each patient.

Plantar Fasciitis Causes: Suboptimal Foot Biomechanics

One of the common plantar fasciitis causes and a large contributing factor are the biomechanics of a persons foot, and their gait (walking/running style). A biomechanical assessment and gait analysis is almost always conducted as part of the diagnostic process for plantar fasciitis, because it allows the sports podiatrist to accurately identify imbalances, malalignments and gait abnormalities in the patient. Foot arch height and the range of motion of the ankle are also assessed. People with flat feet (pes planus) or high arches (pes cavus) are at greatest risk of developing plantar fasciitis. In people with flat feet, the arch collapses as the person weight-bears on the foot, causing the plantar fascia to stretch and pull away from the heel bone, causing inflammation. In people with high arches, their plantar fascia ligament is often very tight, and in those patients, plantar fasciitis causes a lot of tension and pain.

Plantar Fasciitis Causes: Tight Calf Muscles

Plantar fasciitis causes heel pain at the bottom the foot, often because the calf muscles are tight. This lack of flexibility leads to a reduced range of motion at the ankle, which in turn puts extra strain on the plantar fascia ligament.

Plantar Fasciitis Causes: Overweight and Obesity

Carrying extra bodyweight if you are overweight or obese is a risk factor for developing plantar fasciitis. Your lower legs and feet bear the weight of your body, and when undue pressure is placed on the structures of the lower limb, there is excessive strain of the plantar fascia ligament as it attempts to support the foot arch correctly and distribute the forces of your movement through your foot. Particularly in patients with sudden weight gain, plantar fasciitis causes acute and severe pain in the heels and arches.

Plantar Fasciitis Causes: Physical Activity that is Demanding on the Feet

In terms of athletes, plantar fasciitis causes pain for runners, most commonly. Sudden increases in distance, frequency, or intensity of training put the runner at greater risk of developing the condition. The plantar fascia is made of collagen, which is a tissue that is not very stretchy, so if it is not allowed ample time to adapt to and recover between bouts of training, injury and inflammation may arise. Similarly, occupations that require a person to be on their feet for extended periods (such as factory workers or restaurant staff) are at greater risk of plantar fasciitis, due to the constant pressure on the plantar fascia. Factors such as the type of footwear a person wears and the surface on which they exercise or work on also impact the development of the condition.

Plantar Fasciitis Causes: Poor Footwear Choices

Plantar fasciitis causes problems for people who spend a lot of time wearing unsuitable or less than ideal footwear for exercising or daily activities. Some of the common problematic types of footwear include thongs or flip flops, flat or unsupportive shoes such as ballet flats, or minimalist running shoes for long distance runners. Generally speaking, all of the aforementioned shoes fail to provide adequate support for the foot, placing extra pressure on the plantar fascia and causing strain.

Plantar fasciitis causes heel pain and arch pain in many people; athletes and non-physically active people alike. The information provided in the article above, regarding plantar fasciitis,  should not be taken as general advice and is intended for educational purposes only. If you are experiencing heel pain or arch pain, or you suspect that you might have plantar fasciitis, you should consult with a qualified sports podiatrist to discuss your condition. You can make an appointment online at or by calling 93883322.

Karl Lockettsports podiatrist.


Written by Karl Lockett