Plantar fasciitis is typically associated with pain in the heel or arch of the foot. It’s caused by a degenerated or dysfunctional area of the plantar fascia - the connective tissue that runs from the base of your toes to your heel. However, there are several other conditions that can be mistaken for plantar fasciitis.
It’s important to know what is causing the pain in your feet. We hope to help you educate yourself and work toward healing faster.
Ruptured Plantar Fascia
A ruptured plantar fascia will be significantly more painful than plantar fasciitis, but will affect the same area. When the fascia ruptures, there’s typically a “pop” and swelling along with a terrible pain that makes it difficult to place any weight on it. A ruptured plantar fascia can be the result of untreated plantar fasciitis or some form of trauma. Many cases of plantar fascia ruptures are linked to the prior use of steroid injections.
In the case of plantar fasciitis, the degenerated plantar fascia can become worse over time, eventually weakening to the point of rupture. However, your plantar fascia can also rupture from trauma, injections, or impact to the foot. This is a rare problem, but one that should be considered.
Achilles Tendon Rupture
Achilles tendon rupture refers to a significant tear in the achilles tendon, the tendon located behind the ankle, connecting your calf and heel. This can lead to symptoms that feel similar to plantar fasciitis, like with a ruptured plantar fascia.
Also like a ruptured plantar fascia, the pain will be severe and cause issues when placing weight on it. However, this pain will run along the back of the heel and won’t necessarily go away once off your feet. Sometimes, only a few fibers of the Achilles rupture and this is confusing. The Achilles tendon still works properly but there is pain and swelling.
Often the pain is referred to the bottom of the heel and your brain does not recognize the true source of that pain.
Arthritis is commonly mistaken for plantar fasciitis because the symptoms can occur in similar areas and have similar trigger points for pain.
Arthritis can occur throughout the body, but when it affects the foot it can feel similar to plantar fasciitis, and gets worse as you move. This is especially the case when the arthritis is in the heel of the foot.
Like plantar fasciitis, arthritis can often feel worse after periods of inactivity and when the joint is not warmed up. There is a joint above the heel bone to which the fascia attaches. There is also a number of midfoot joints that are directly above the fascia.
Fat Pad Atrophy
The fat pads in your feet are what cushion every step you take. There are important, shock-absorbing- fat pads under the heel and at the ball of the foot. If the fat pad protecting your heel becomes too thin, it can cause pain, irritation, inflammation and even stress fractures over time. It is easy to actually feel the bone directly under the skin in these cases.
As you get older, your fat pads thin naturally, however they can also be permanently affected by cortisone shots. Cortisone shots are a common treatment method for those with plantar fasciitis, but it is a short-term solution and can pose more concerns than benefits.
Stress fractures are partially broken bones. These are ‘hairline’ fractures. They are often not even visible on a radiograph until about 2-3 weeks after they happen. They’re typically shallow and can vary in size and spread along the bone. Your heel bone or other bones in the feet can develop stress fractures over time.
When stress fractures occur in the heel, they can be mistaken for plantar fasciitis. However, plantar fasciitis can often feel better once the feet warm up, whereas stress fractures do not. Pain from stress fractures can also occur in different parts of the foot, not just the heel. An x-ray can help to rule out a stress fracture as the cause of your pain. However, an MRI is often necessary.
Tendinitis in the foot can be mistaken for plantar fasciitis because it can be painful when walking, but also become less painful as the tendon warms up. The most likely tendon to develop tendinitis in the foot is your achilles tendon. However, the tendons to the smaller, intrinsic foot muscles can also mimic plantar fasciitis pain.
If it is a case of achilles tendinitis, the pain is felt in the back of the heel, whereas with plantar fasciitis, it is typically in the front of the heel. That said, there is a large referral zone for pain in this part of the body.
Bursitis can occur with any joint in the body, and can be confused with plantar fasciitis when located in the joints of the foot. Bursitis is the result of inflamed bursae, fluid filled sacs that surround and protect your joints.
Unlike plantar fascia, bursitis becomes more sensitive when attempting to massage the affected area. An inflamed bursae will be tender and painful when under direct pressure. The most likely bursa is just in front of the Achilles tendon and just under the calcaneus itself.
Relieve Your Foot Pain With The Healing Sole
If you’re experiencing foot pain, we recommend consulting with your physician to receive an official diagnosis. However, The Healing Sole can provide pain relief for more than just plantar fasciitis.
The Healing Sole was designed by orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Meredith Warner as a recovery device that can offload pressure and evenly distribute weight in the foot.
The features on The Healing Sole not only help you feel better in the moment, but also offer long-term relief. As it stretches and strengthens your feet today, it’s helping you feel pain relief tomorrow as well.