Plantar Fasciitis and Foot Tendonitis are two very different conditions that can be difficult to tell apart. Both involve pain on the bottom of your foot, and both can have a huge impact on your quality of life. Knowing the difference between the two can make a big difference on your treatment as well – so the sooner you can determine which ailment you’re dealing with, the quicker you can get effective relief for your symptoms.
One of the biggest differences between Plantar Fasciitis and Foot Tendonitis is the location of the pain. The pain from Plantar Fasciitis is concentrated on the heel and underside of the foot, while the pain from Foot Tendonitis can present itself in many areas of the foot, depending on the type of tendonitis.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
When the thick tissue that connects your heel to the ball of your foot becomes inflamed to the point of pain, you have a condition known as Plantar Fasciitis. The primary cause of Plantar Fasciitis is unsupported or strained arches. It can be triggered or made worse by many factors:
- sudden weight gain (including weight gain from pregnancy) that puts additional strain on the arches of your feet
- long distance running, or running without proper foot support on hard or uneven surfaces
- arches that are either high or flat
- standing for long periods of time throughout the day
- prolonged use of everyday footwear that doesn’t have proper arch support
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
One of the most common telltale signs of Plantar Fasciitis is foot pain that is worst first thing in the morning (when the fascia is tight after a nights sleep) and improves somewhat throughout the day as the fascia re-stretches. The following are other telltale signs of Plantar Fasciitis:
- stiffness in the heel and arching arches
- swelling and redness along the arch and heel
- pain that is worse in the morning
- symptoms improve somewhat with rest, and icing
- sharp pain in the fascia and heel, which typically causes limping
To diagnose Plantar Fasciitis, your doctor will carefully examine your heel and arch, and will probably take x-rays. If the area between your heel and the ball of your foot appears inflamed and thicker than normal, and if the x-rays reveal bone spurs (calcium deposits that develop in response to inflammation of the heel and fascia), a diagnosis of Plantar Fasciitis will likely be made.
Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis is most effective when approached holistically to reduce inflammation and support your heels and arches:
- Regular, gentle stretching (stretching as long as there is no pain)
- Regular icing of the heel and fascia
- Shoes that support the heel and fascia
- Dietary changes (avoiding inflammatory foods and adding certain supplements)
- Anti-inflammatory medication to manage foot pain, including ibuprofen (to be used only during times of rest)
Causes of Tendonitis
Unlike Plantar Fasciitis, the pain from tendonitis can be focused in several areas of the foot, depending on the type of tendonitis (the front, side, top, or back of your foot) but not the fascia. Achilles Tendonitis, one of the most common types of tendonitis, can either come on suddenly due to an injury or develop more chronically, from improper footwear or overuse. Tendonitis can have similar causes to Plantar Fasciitis. Running without supportive footwear on hard surfaces is often a primary culprit, but tendonitis can also be brought on suddenly by an injury.
Symptoms of Tendonitis
If you have tendonitis, you’ll likely find that foot pain is worst at the beginning of the day, and that it ramps up in response to increasing physical activity. Also look for these symptoms:
- Pain gets worsens with increasing activity level
- Redness and swelling
- A soft, painful lump may develop at the tendon, over time
- Stiffness in foot and ankle
Your doctor will do a physical exam of your foot, and may also do an MRI to determine whether any tearing or other damage has taken place to the tendons in your foot.
Treatment for tendonitis, like Plantar Fasciitis, should focus on dealing with symptoms and addressing the cause that brought about the condition in the first place. Strengthening the muscles in the calf and foot to support the tendons, icing and rest to reduce inflammation, and anti-inflammatory pain relievers are likely to be recommended.
Whether It’s tendonitis or Plantar Fasciitis, seeking and following through with treatment as soon as possible will make all the difference in getting relief and preventing further damage. Left untreated, both conditions can have a significant impact on your quality of life.