Can Plantar Fasciitis Cause Calf Pain?

Ariana Purificati Fune

Both calf pain and plantar fasciitis are common injuries for runners and those participating in constant weight-bearing and/or high-impact activities. The two are highly related, but is one a cause of the other?

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

The plantar fascia is a thick connective tissue running along the sole of your foot, providing arch support and shock absorption. Plantar fasciitis occurs from repetitive strain leading to a degeneration of the tendon at its origin on the calcaneus (heel bone)1.

How are plantar fasciitis and calf pain related?

The basis of the relationship between plantar fasciitis and calf pain comes down to the Achilles tendon. Three calf muscles, both heads of the gastrocnemius and the soleus, converge into the Achilles tendon which works alongside the plantar fascia through many motions at the foot and ankle. 

Shock Absorption

The plantar fascia has an essential role in the proper biomechanics of the foot and shock absorption upon impact. The Achilles tendon, through the activation of the calf muscles, causes plantarflexion of the foot and also plays a role in shock absorption.

Altered Gait Pattern

It is common for those with this injury to walk with a limp, or prefer walking on their toes. This foot position stresses the plantar fascia even more. It also keeps the Achilles tendon in a shortened position which, over time, can lead to stiffness and inflexibility.

Tight Gastrocnemius and Achilles Tendon

A tight Achilles tendon will limit the amount of ankle dorsiflexion available during walking and running. The foot then has to compensate through extra dorsiflexion throughout the foot which puts excess stress on the plantar fascia2.

Conclusion

Calf pain can be due to excess tension in the Achilles tendon or the calf muscles themselves. Tight gastrocnemius and soleus can be both a risk factor for and a symptom of plantar fasciitis, thus leading the two to be commonly correlated with one another. It is difficult to diagnose whether your calf pain is caused by plantar fasciitis without examination by a professional. 

If you are looking for ways to relieve pain from either injury, check out our blog posts on how to treat plantar fasciitis and calf pain.

References

  1. Plantar fasciitis. Physiopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2022, from https://www.physio-pedia.com/Plantar_Fasciitis?utm_source=physiopedia&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=ongoing_internal
  2. Bolgla, L. A., & Malone, T. R. (2004). Plantar fasciitis and the windlass mechanism: a biomechanical link to clinical practice. Journal of athletic training39(1), 77–82.
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Ariana Purificati Fune

Ariana is a Certified Personal Trainer and holds a BSc in Kinesiology. She has a passion for making fitness inclusive and accessible to everyone.

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