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Health / January 15, 2013

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome vs. Plantar Fasciitis: What's the Difference?

BY Jeremy

If you have foot pain, you know it can not only slow you down, but it can also knock you off your feet. Two common causes of foot pain include tarsal tunnel syndrome and plantar fasciitis. The causes, symptoms, and treatments for each are very similar, but there are some notable differences.

Let's explore these two painful foot injuries and discuss how you can treat and prevent them.


The Anatomy

The tarsal tunnel is the space along the inside of your ankle between the heel and the top of your ankle. There are a lot of nerves, tendons, and blood vessels that run through this small “hallway” in your ankle. The tarsal tunnel has bone on one side and tendon on the other that give it its shape.

The plantar fascia, on the other hand - er, foot - is a long ligament that runs from the heel to the ball of your foot. It is one of the major elements in creating the arch of your foot. The plantar fascia serves to absorb the force of your weight as you stand, walk, jump, or run.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome feels like numbness on the bottom of the foot. With plantar fasciitis, the pain is around the bottom of the heel.

The Condition

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is like carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist. It happens when the posterior tibial nerve gets compressed in the tarsal tunnel. When the narrow space of the tarsal tunnel becomes tight, the tibial nerve gets pinched.

Plantar fasciitis is when the plantar fascia gets swollen from overuse or an injury.


The Symptoms

Tarsal tunnel syndrome usually feels like numbness on the bottom of the foot, and pain, burning, and tingling on the base of the foot or heel.

With plantar fasciitis, the pain is usually concentrated around the bottom of the heel, usually near the front. The pain can often be worse first thing in the morning while taking the first few steps--or after long periods of standing or walking.


The Cause

Most of the time, it is not clear what causes tarsal tunnel syndrome. It is often associated with repeatedly performing the same motion in the feet (repetitive stress), just like carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist. Other contributing factors may include broken bones, bone spurs, muscle restriction, or foot deformities.

Even though plantar fasciitis is most common in middle-aged men and women, it can also be found in all age groups. As we age, our ligaments tend to get tighter and lose their elasticity. Plantar fasciitis is more common in those who are physically active--especially in runners. It happens when the plantar fascia becomes irritated and swollen, either from an injury or from being overused.

For both tarsal tunnel syndrome and plantar fasciitis, using orthopedic inserts in your shoes, or wearing properly fitting shoes can often greatly reduce or eliminate the symptoms and pain.

The Treatment

The treatment is pretty much the same for both tarsal tunnel syndrome and plantar fasciitis. While this is not a comprehensive list, here are some of the most common treatments for these conditions:

  • Rest: Since both of these conditions are classified as repetitive stress disorders, one of the best things to do is to rest your feet. Stop or cut back on the physical exercise. Take a break from running for a while to give your feet time to heal.
  • Medication: Over the counter anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofen or aspirin can help reduce swelling and relieve pain. For more serious and long-term injuries, you may need to get cortisone shots to help with the pain.
  • Surgery: Almost all incidents of tarsal tunnel syndrome or plantar fasciitis will heal with only minimal care. Only the most severe cases require surgery.
  • Orthotics and Footwear: For both tarsal tunnel syndrome and plantar fasciitis, using orthopedic inserts in your shoes, or wearing properly fitting shoes can often greatly reduce or eliminate the symptoms and pain.

Not only can wearing properly fitting shoes help treat these painful foot conditions, but they can also help prevent them. Look for shoes that have good arch support and that keep your feet in correct alignment.

KURU Footwear are built around the KuruSole, an anatomically active midsole. It provides excellent arch support while still allowing your foot to bend and flex. The integrated HeelKradl cups your heel with each step to offer the ultimate in support and comfort.

If you’re suffering from foot pain caused by either plantar fasciitis or tarsal tunnel syndrome, check out KURU Footwear for the most supportive and comfortable shoes.



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There are 1 Comments. Your Turn.

  • Susan Haynie says:

    I got my first pair of KURU shoes when I had my first bout of plantar fasciitis. I was looking for well made, comfortable shoes that would help with my foot pain, and boy, did I get lucky! Over the years, when I've had recurring pain in my feet, I'd follow doctors' orders for foot care and when I needed to be up and moving, I'd wear my KURU shoes, indoors and out. A week later, my pain was gone! Gradually I became so confident in the shoes that if the foot pain came back, I'd skip the doctor and go straight to wearing my shoes whenever I was up, whether it was to cook and clean for my family or to go walking outdoors. A week later, I'd be out of pain. Then I realized all I needed to do to prevent the pain returning was to wear my KURUs regularly. I started wearing my KURUs more often, and the pain has not returned! I now evaluate all shoes (even those I wear for dressy occasions) by the KURU standard. The closer they are to the high standards KURU sets, the better off my feet will be! And of course, I wear my KURUs daily for at least part of the day. No more foot pain! Thanks so much for teaching me how to prevent something that used to keep me on the couch several days a year! It has literally changed my life for the better. I have confidence that I can move freely now, with no worries about how much stress my activity is placing on my feet. I'm more active and healthier because of KURU shoes!

    Posted on November 8, 2013 at 8:12 am