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Q: I run a lot and have flat arches. How can I avoid plantar fasciitis?
A: Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the fibrous tissue that helps hold the arch up, usually occurring from overuse or chronic repetitive strain. If you look at the arch of the foot like an archery bow on its side, the bowstring is the plantar fascia. It extends from the heel through to the toes. It is made of the same material that ligaments and tendons are made of and is fairly strong. With repetitive chronic use or overuse, it can become irritated where it inserts on the heel bone. With a flattened foot, the bow is also flattened out. This can put strain on the plantar fascia and cause chronic inflammation. Recognizing the signs and symptoms and treating them early is key to preventing the progression of plantar fasciitis and what people call “heel spurs” (small bony growths on the back or underside of the heel). In this instance, arch supports or orthotics are usually the best solutions. They help unload the plantar fascia, but even more than that, they keep the bones of the foot and the arch in a more normal position. With the orthotics in place, stretching of the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon can help to keep the plantar fascia supple and protect it from further injury. Should you find yourself suffering from heel pain, you should also try stretching, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, and ice. They can be very helpful in alleviating the symptoms. If the symptoms of plantar fasciitis last more than 6 weeks, it is important to see a foot and ankle specialist. In the vast majority of cases, treatment will be successful.