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What Is a Plantar Fascia Release?

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes. It helps support the overall shape of your foot, especially when standing. Irritation and scarring of the plantar fascia, known as plantar fasciitis, is one of the most common causes of heel pain.

Often there is no one event that triggers heel pain. It generally develops over time and can become extremely painful, especially with the first few steps in the morning. It is more common in women, those who walk a lot and people who are overweight. Risk factors include your natural foot shape (flat or high arch), your activities (walking, running) and improper shoes.

Plantar fascia release is a surgical procedure that removes or releases the diseased portion of the tissue that is responsible for the pain. This is reserved for patients in severe pain who have exhausted non-surgical treatments. 

Diagnosis

Non-surgical treatment of plantar fasciitis is almost always the first approach. This may involve activity modification, medications, injections, boots, braces, splints, orthotics, and a change in shoes. If these options fail, you should talk to your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon regarding surgery.

Treatment

Plantar fascia release may be performed in a number of ways, including through an incision or with a needle. Each surgical method achieves the goal of relieving the tension on the damaged and painful portion of the tissue.

Recovery

Patients typically go home the same day of their surgery. Your surgeon may place you in a splint, boot, or postoperative shoe. You may have restrictions on your weight bearing after surgery. If you have sutures, they may be removed two weeks after surgery and then normal weight bearing can resume. 

Risks and Complications

All surgeries come with possible complications, including the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots.

FAQs

How successful is plantar fascia release surgery?
The majority of patients who undergo surgery will have decreased pain and improved function. On average most patients will be able to return to normal weight bearing 2-3 weeks after surgery. Continued stretching, good footwear and avoiding activities that cause pain are important to a successful recovery.

The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images, and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find a Surgeon" search to locate a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon in your area.