This post from 2011 was edited, lightly expanded (photos added and resources updated) in 2020. For more information on feet and gait, read through Our Favorite Feet, Footwear, and Walking Resources.
I was super SUPER excited about this month’s issue of Foot & Ankle Specialist! Don’t you get this magazine too? Well, I'm not really a subscriber, but I have awesome friends who are on the lookout for articles that I may want to blog about.
P.S. Everyone should get a podiatrist friend. Mine is awesome, because not only is she an excellent doctor, she is also really good at cribbage. Almost as good as me. And if I ever get a cribbage injury, she’ll probably treat me for free. Although she won’t because she’s not allowed to treat anything but the feet. So if I get a cribbage injury in the lower leg—say, I accidentally step on a cribbage peg—I’ll surely be saving some cash money. I love my friends.
The CLINICAL RESEARCH section in the July 2011 Foot & Ankle is about plantar fasciitis.
In case you were wondering, “Plantar fasciitis is an overuse syndrome characterized by localized inflammation or degeneration of the plantar fascia at its anatomical insertion on the calcaneus.”
And in case you were wondering, localized means that the whole structure is not suffering from inflammation, just at a particular point, anatomical insertion means where the tissue attaches to bone, and the calcaneus is the name of the heel bone.
The structure looks like this:
Well, it kind of looks like this. I just made this using the "shapes" feature on my computer. I don't think the big toe is typically twice the size of the heel but beggars can't be choosers. Or is it bloggers can't be artists?
What got me so excited it that this is the first study I'd seen that looked at tension in the hamstrings (the large muscles down the back of the thighs) and the association between that tension and the occurrence of plantar fasciitis.
So, how might hamstring tension relate to foot tension (think "extra pulling at its insertions)? What I've illustrated below is how chronic hamstring tension changes the orientation of the long bones of the leg, which in turn chronically moves the weight of the body forward, onto the mid-foot.
When it comes to plantar fasciitis, the mechanism is often thought to be obesity (too much weight being placed on the feet) or tight ankles, which is why calf stretching is often recommended. This paper calls out that, more than body mass, tight hamstrings are correlated to plantar fasciitis, so read up on how to get the backs of the legs more flexible!
Labovitz, J.M.; Yu, J., and Kim, C. "The Role of Hamstring Tightness in Plantar Fasciitis," Foot & Ankle Specialist, June, 2011, vol. 4, no. 3, pages 141-144.