Plantar Fasciitis in the Dancer

Plantar Fasciitis is when the plantar fascia ligament becomes irritated and inflamed. Typically this results in pain on the bottom of the heel and/or foot arch where the plantar fascia ligament lies. This pain can be particularly noticed when first standing after getting out of bed or after a period rest sitting in a chair. After a few steps the pain decreases until the foot is rested again. In dancers, the Plantar Fasciitis pain may be noticed when the dancer stands after resting for even a few minutes. Walking a few steps may temporarily relieve the pain but it recurs frequently during the day.

The plantar fascia is a thick ligament-like structure that originates on the heel bone (calcaneus) and attaches within the ball of the foot and toes. It functions to support the intrinsic muscles within the arch of the foot and to stabilize the toes during walking, running and jumping. The plantar fascia is always under tension with walking and running but also during stance. During dance, the tension within the plantar fascia is increased as the muscles decelerate the foot when rolling down from demi-pointe and particularly when landing from a jump. The muscles contract and tighten with releve. Therefore, with repetitive releve and jumps in dance, the plantar fascia and the intrinsic foot muscles are placed under a lot of tension. To add to this, any tightness of the Achilles tendon will place additional stress to the plantar fascia ligament. Even in the most flexible dancer, the Achilles tendon will tighten with pointe work and releve. Tightness of the Achilles tendon and hamstring muscles are the reasons that the heel is more painful when first standing in the mornings or after rest. As the Achilles tendon and hamstrings tighten at rest during the night or with periods of rest, the plantar fascia also tightens. Small micro-tears can occur with the increased tension on a chronically tight plantar fascia leading to the irritation and inflammation.

For more information, contact us at Olympic Foot and Ankle at 916.244.7630.