Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is among the most common causes of foot pain. It occurs when the thick band of connective tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, known as the plantar fascia, degenerates, causing a sharp pain that is worst when you wake up in the morning and which may temporarily go away as your foot warms up and becomes more limber; the pain may return if you sit for long periods of time. Runners are at a particularly high risk of plantar fasciitis, especially those who are overweight or pregnant, or whose footwear fits improperly or does not provide sufficient support. Other sports that can cause plantar fasciitis include those that require running and jumping, such as basketball or ballet dancing.

First-line treatment of plantar fasciitis consists of resting the affected foot, icing it, stretching the plantar fascia, and using tape or a brace to support the plantar fascia and remove any strain that might be placed on it during everyday activities. You might also consider a night splint to support your foot.

If the pain doesn’t go away or gets worse, you should see a sports medicine professional. To make sure plantar fasciitis is really what’s causing your pain, he or she may recommend sports massage, physical therapy and store-bought or custom-made orthotics for your athletic shoes so they support your feet properly and promote healing. If all else fails, surgery may be necessary to lengthen or detach the plantar fascia.

To prevent plantar fasciitis or its recurrence, increase mileage gradually, keep your plantar fascia limber by stretching out the foot, and make sure your footwear provides proper support.

Navicular Stress Fracture

In many sports, the foot can take quite a beating, and over time, this can lead to a stress fracture. The navicular, a bone in the foot that sits atop the heel bone, can be vulnerable to stress fracture, and this injury is rather common among athletes who do a lot of jumping and running.

Sports that particularly increase the risk of navicular stress fracture include track and field, ballet, football, basketball, rugby and gymnastics. Common symptoms of the injury include swelling in the midfoot and pain that may last for months. This pain may fade away with rest, but tends to return when you resume activity. In addition, pressing on the so-called “N spot” between the foot’s arch and the heel on the bottom of the foot causes tenderness if a navicular stress fracture is present.

If you think you might have a navicular stress fracture, you should consult a medical injury specialist as soon as possible. That’s because letting this injury go untreated can cause long-term foot pain; early treatment is crucial. The specialist may use a bone scan or magnetic resonance image (MRI) to look at your bone and see whether it has the tiny cracks characteristic of a stress fracture.

If you do have a stress fracture, you likely will need a cast for at least six weeks, or until the tenderness in your foot is gone. Your sports medicine specialist might recommend physical therapy and rehabilitation and strengthening exercises to strengthen the foot and regain range-of-motion.

To prevent a recurrence of your navicular stress fracture (or to prevent it in the first place), make sure your equipment and footwear fit properly, and increase training and mileage gradually. Shock-absorbing inserts for your shoes can also protect the bones of your foot from the stress of your own body weight.