An inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissues that runs from the heel to the toes.

Along the bottom of your foot runs a thick band of connective tissue. Starting at the heel, the band fans out to connect to each of the toes. It’s called the plantar fascia, and it’s engineered to act as a shock absorber for all the pounding the body takes. However, all that pounding can cause small tears in the plantar fascia, creating an irritating, inflamed source of pain. Once the
plantar fascia is damaged, the condition is called plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is known to affect those who exercise regularly, those who are overweight, those with a high arch, and those with a fl at foot. In other words, it’s not very discriminating.

“The theory is that there is a design problem with the way the body was engineered,” says David Martin, a triathlete and chiropractor in Johnson City, N.Y. “But more likely it’s because of the way we use — and abuse — our bodies.” Whether the cause is overuse through exercise, excessive weight, a hard landing, or our  footwear, the result is the same: The arch drops, causing the fascia band to stretch and then tear.

In most cases, the plantar fascia tears near the heel. Many times it is ignored and worsens until the repeated irritation and prolonged inflammation causes the body to develop a secondary problem: heel spurs.

“The body creates a bony spur because it’s afraid the inflamed tissue will tear away from the heel,” explains William Smith, owner of Southern Tier Pedorthic Center in Endicott, N.Y., a specialty shoe store that fits many  clients suffering from plantar fasciitis.