The plantar fascia at the base of the foot can often become tight and injured when overworked, an injury known as plantar fasciitis.
This can be quite a debilitating and painful injury and is especially common in sports that involve a lot of running, or professions where people spend a lot of time on their feet.
But what is the Plantar fascia and what does it do?
The word fascia comes from Latin, meaning “a band”. It denotes the layer of fibrous connective tissue that surrounds different organs, muscles, bones, blood vessels and nerves.
The plantar fascia is the fibrous tissue layer on the plantar surface of the foot that connects the heel bone to the toes. It supports the arch of the foot and protects the sole from injuries.
It is made up of collagen fibres oriented in a lengthwise direction from toes to heel (or heel to toes). It runs from the front of the heel bone (calcaneus) to the ball of the foot. This dense strip of tissue helps support the arch of the foot by acting something like the string on an archer’s bow.
Both the plantar fascia and the Achilles’ tendon attach to the calcaneus (heel bone). Although they function separately, there is an indirect relationship. If the toes are pulled back toward the face, the plantar fascia tightens up. This position is very painful for someone with plantar fasciitis. Force generated in the Achilles’ tendon increases the strain on the plantar fascia. This is called the windlass mechanism.
The importance of ensuring that you have a healthy plantar fascia include:
- Improved posture by increasing proprioceptive feedback and decreasing tension through the achilles, calves and hamstrings.
- Improved foot shock absorption and recoil enhancing stability in the arch decreasing risk of ankle injuries.
- Dynamically a healthy and elastic plantar fascia improves the windlass mechanism which translates to increased running efficiency by improving the “propulsive phase” in toe off.
- Improved range of motion in the ankle, knee and hip joint allowing for increased movement efficiency and range in squatting, deadlifting and lunging movements.
Bolgla, L. A., & Malone, T. R. (2004). Plantar Fasciitis and the Windlass Mechanism: A Biomechanical Link to Clinical Practice. Journal of Athletic Training, 39(1), 77–82.