The pros and cons of cortisone shots for plantar fasciitis

Kaitlyn Feldvari

There’s no way around it; having plantar fasciitis can be both painful and be a drag on your entire day. And although stretching, massage, and exercise can help treat your plantar fasciitis, sometimes you may want to consider more drastic options. 

One such option you may consider is getting a cortisone shot to help ease the pain. Cortisone shots, in most cases, can be remarkably effective in helping treat pain for a wide variety of issues, and some studies suggest they may be worthwhile for plantar fasciitis. 

In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of getting a cortisone shot for your plantar fasciitis as well as other things you should consider before talking with your doctor. 

How does a cortisone shot for plantar fasciitis work? 

(Image source)

Cortisone shots work similarly to other shots you may receive at the doctor and typically use a relatively small needle which is good news for those that don’t particularly shots. 

The cortisone shot is generally applied to the most painful area of your plantar fascia, where the steroid gets to work, providing relief. In most cases, it takes 2-3 days before the relief is noticeable but can work sooner depending on the severity of your plantar fasciitis. 

Dr. Leo Krawetz of Healthy Feet Podiatry is a big proponent of doing everything you can to treat your plantar fasciitis before getting a shot and sees it as a last resort option. 

As he shared in a video:

For one of my current patients, he was doing all the right things I recommended, such as stretching, icing, arch supports, and then the pain came back to the point he was having trouble walking, which is why we decided to go with a cortisone shot.

Many other doctors and podiatrists agree that a cortisone shot should be considered and only if other treatments and solutions have been tried first. 

Typically, the effects of the cortisone shot can last anywhere from six weeks to six months and, in some cases, slightly longer. Again, while in the short term, it can provide relief, it is not a long-term solution if you don’t treat the root cause of your plantar fasciitis. 

Pros and cons of a cortisone shot for plantar fasciitis

Pros 

Despite only being a short term solution, there are several benefits of cortisone shots. 

Provides short term relief!

If you’re in a lot of pain and need instant relief, cortisone shots can be a good option in most cases. Perhaps you have an important workout or race you simply can’t miss. Or maybe the pain caused by your plantar fasciitis is so severe you have trouble walking or going throughout your day. 

For the short term and emergency use cases, the science says cortisone shots for plantar fasciitis  work. 

As NCBI found, “this review shows that both US- and palpation-guided corticosteroid injections are effective in reducing heel pain in patients with plantar fasciitis, including those with chronic pain and those who have failed conservative physical therapies. The effects are usually short term, lasting 4–12 weeks.”

Many professional athletes will get cortisone shots for this very reason. 

Can be a great addition to your recovery efforts to treat pain 

While a cortisone shot should never be considered the end-all-be-all solution for your plantar fasciitis, getting one can help you get back on your feet quickly—especially if your plantar fasciitis pain is particularly severe.  

The short term relief in pain, makes it easier for you to perform stretches and massage which ultimately will help you treat the root cause of your plantar fasciitis. Although we recommend muscle scraping, rest, and other solutions before considering a shot, it can be useful depending on your specific situation. If it’s too painful for you to stretch or go for a light walk for example, a shot might be worth considering. 

Cons 

Although cortisone shots for plantar fasciitis have their place, there are a few important downsides you should be aware of. 

More research needed for effectiveness 

While some studies support the effectiveness of a cortisone shot for plantar fasciitis, other studies have found that a shot ultimately isn’t more effective than a placebo. 

Based on the findings of this review, corticosteroid injection is more effective than some comparators for the reduction of pain and the improvement of function in people with plantar heel pain. However, corticosteroid injection is not more effective than placebo injection for reducing pain or improving function.”

Additionally, most of the studies done include stretching and other exercises in their assessment, making it difficult to assess the shot’s effectiveness alone.

As with essential oils, cortisone shots may indeed provide relief, but more research needs to be done to determine the extent of their benefits. 

Not a long term solution 

Again, if you’re looking for short term relief, a cortisone shot may prove beneficial, but in most cases, you’ll need to have a shot multiple times a year and your plantar fasciitis won’t actually go away.

Given cortisone shots will not affect the root cause of your plantar fasciitis, more natural solutions such as rest, stretching, massage, and even scraping may be your best option, especially in the long term. Like with many things in health and fitness, there is no magic pill or cure. 

Can be expensive 

If a cortisone shot for plantar fasciitis was indeed a one-off solution for your pain, you might find it easier to justify the price. Given you’ll often need multiple shots throughout the year, the cost adds up. 

The cost of a cortisone shot can range from 100-300 USD, depending on your insurance. In rare cases, it may be even more. The reality is multiple shots for short-term plantar fasciitis relief is simply not an option for many. 

On the other hand, minor adjustments to your day-to-day recovery can lead to long-lasting pain relief. 

Can include a wide variety of negative side effects

While virtually every medicine and injections have some potential adverse side effects, the list of negative side effects for cortisone shots is on the troubling side.

Here are just a few of the possible adverse effects. 

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Acne
  • Extreme tiredness depression
  • Slowed healing of cuts and bruises
  • Cartilage damage
  • Nerve damage

And more…

Given the long list of potential negative side effects, you may be hesitant to take the risk depending on your specific circumstances and may want to consider a shot as a last resort. 

Additionally, although incredibly rare, there have been instances of plantar fascia ruptures after receiving a cortisone shot. 

We don’t share these possible negative effects to scare you but rather to highlight the very real things that could go wrong. 

Should you get a cortisone shot?

At Sidekick, we don’t pretend to be doctors on the internet. Ultimately the decision as to whether or not you should have a cortisone shot comes down between you and your doctor. 

Current research shows that cortisone shots for plantar fasciitis can provide consistent short-term relief. Still, you should consider many other solutions before you make an appointment with your doctor. 

As one study on cortisone shots concludes:

Steroid therapy is a valuable adjunct to other therapy measures, including plantar fascial stretching. However, one should be cognizant that overuse of steroid injection can lead to complications.

If your plantar fasciitis is only causing minor pain, we recommend giving a few home treatments a try first. If the pain is unbearable and you need relief fast, talking to your doctor about a shot might be the best next step.  

Ultimately, whether you choose to get a cortisone shot or not, the best long-term solution for your plantar fasciitis involves multiple treatments at once.

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Kaitlyn Feldvari

Kaitlyn Feldvari is a former volleyball athlete, Personal Trainer and holds a BSc in Kinesiology. She is also the Product Manager at Sidekick.

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