We recently had a visit from a policeman with a sore heel and arch. While we diagnosed his condition and prescribed a comprehensive treatment plan to get rid of his pain once and for all, we also learnt something new. We learnt that back in the day when policemen patrolled the streets by foot, this type of heel pain was very common for them – to the point that it got known as Policeman’s Foot Syndrome.
Sure enough, with the amount of time our brave men and women spend keeping our city safe, this will still be affecting many of them (as well as a lot of New Zealanders in other occupations!) so we thought we’d write about what exactly this is, why it happens and what you can do if this sounds like the problem you’re having.
Let’s start with the basics. This syndrome is medically known as:
Plantar fasciitis describes the damage to, and inflammation of, a tissue called the fascia which originates at the base of the heel and spans the arch to the toes. Because the plantar fascia supports the arch and engages every time you take a step, spending long periods on your feet without the right support can definitely be a cause of plantar fasciitis.
Other contributing factors include having flatter feet (or very high arches), unsupportive footwear, increasing training intensity, obesity, hard surfaces, trauma, and generally pounding your feet and heels each day.
What are the symptoms?
Pain located at the bottom of the heel and/or inner heel that may radiate up into the arch
Pain present first thing in the morning when starting to walk
Pain may ease after a few minutes of walking
Pain present on standing after rest
Both sharp and/or throbbing pain
What should you do?
Seeing your Podiatrist is absolutely the first step. They’ll be able to prescribe the best treatment plan for you based on your exact symptoms, cause and daily activities. At Perform Podiatry we work your rehabilitation into your life so you get the best results and are able to continue to do the things you love (within reason, of course, until your pain goes away!). Your treatment plan with likely involve a combination of some of the following elements:
Appropriate footwear – to support your foot and the plantar fascia throughout recovery, reducing load away from it while it heals
Orthotics – to support your foot and the plantar fascia and reduce the daily strain so it can heal and repair. We get the best results from custom-made orthotics, specifically designed for you from a cast of your feet paired with the results of a comprehensive biomechanical assessment of your feet and legs
Stretching – initially, where indicated and of benefit, we may begin by stretching tissues that may be contributing to your plantar fascial pain. This likely won’t be the fascia itself to start, but the calves and the Achilles tendon where we identify tightness in your biomechanical examination.
Strengthening – strengthening muscles that we identify in your biomechanical assessment to be weakened will help to support and stabilise your feet and legs and may reduce some tension from your plantar fascia, as well as supporting the healthy movement of your lower limbs
Strapping – during the initial stages of treatment to temporarily help keep your foot in a position that places minimal strain on the fascia
Managing acute symptoms – to help reduce pain and the initial inflammation so that healing can begin. This involves elements like icing and elevating the affected foot
The moral of the story?
It’s simply that plantar fasciitis affects a lot of New Zealanders and our ability to perform both our daily tasks and our jobs – just like our policemen and women. Getting it sorted early means you get pain-free and back to doing the things you love as quickly as possible.