The bowstring shape of the plantar fascia allows it to support the arch of the foot and act like a shock absorber. Whilst it performs this function very well, if the fascia undergoes too much stress or tension, small tears and inflammation can occur, which cause the pain so familiar to plantar fasciitis sufferers.
Unlike a muscle tear or a broken bone, there’s rarely one specific injury that someone with plantar fasciitis can point to as the cause of their injury. There are, however, factors that can put people more at risk of having the condition. Age is one such factor – it is a condition most commonly seen in people between forty and sixty years old, and it is believed that being overweight can also be a factor.
Certain types of gait (the way you walk) and foot structure is also a possible risk factor. Flat feet (where the foot has a very low arch) or very high arches can stress the plantar fascia, because the weight of the body is distributed in an uneven pattern, which is also why certain types of gait can be an added risk factor.
Plantar fasciitis is also more common with certain types of sports or exercise that others – sports which put more stress on the heel such as ballet, some aerobics and long distance running can contribute to stress across the fascia.
Long periods of standing on hard surfaces has also been suggested as a risk factor for the condition.