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Intense heel pain that you feel with your first steps the morning after you play soccer might be from an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes. This inflammation, called plantar fasciitis, causes a stabbing pain that could also present itself after long periods of standing or after getting up from a chair. The plantar fascia, which supports the foot arch, can suffer small tears from overuse, typically from too much running or soccer playing.
What Causes It
The stop-and-start motion of soccer can create chronic repetitive stress, leading to chronic irritation of the plantar fascia, note podiatrist Donald L. Lorimar and co-authors of the established podiatry text “Neale’s Disorders of the Foot.” Plantar fasciitis is more common in female athletes and adults, podiatrist Richard T. Braver writes in the journal “Podiatry Today.” If you pronate excessively, meaning you walk or run on the outside of your feet, that increases torsion and the potential for inflammation of the plantar fascia. Running on soft surfaces such as wet turf fields can increase this pronation.
Turf shoes may be prudent instead of cleats, particularly during practice, to avoid plantar fasciitis. Cleats often do not provide adequate arch support and lack adequate shock-absorbing properties for the heel. Turf shoes typically feature small nubs of hard rubber instead of plastic cleats. That provides a far higher degree of cushioning on the soccer field, particularly if the pitch has a hard surface.
Prolonged training sessions and numerous games can bring on plantar fasciitis. Conservative management includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, ice, stretching and massage, advises sports medicine researcher Barbara L. Drinkwater in “Women in Sport.” Night splints with straps attached to a boot-like base, while cumbersome, can keep the plantar fascia stretched throughout the night.
More You Can Do
A podiatrist may recommend taping and padding the affected foot as well as providing orthotic supports. Corticosteroid injections can address pain and swelling if rest doesn’t bring improvement. If X-rays reveal a heel spur, this is the result and not the cause of the heel inflammation, notes the “Handbook of Sports Medicine and Science.”