Plantar Fasciitis vs. a Sprain: How to Tell the Difference

Plantar Fasciitis vs. a Sprain: How to Tell the Difference

Sometimes it's challenging to pinpoint an injury in your foot because there are simply so many things that can go wrong. 

Even though your feet do an amazing job over a lifetime of getting you around, they’re filled with bones, ligaments, and joints, all of which have the potential for injury and pain. Because of this, you may be confused about the source of your foot pain. 

Two conditions that are often confused are sprains and plantar fasciitis. It’s best to have your doctor diagnose your injury and follow up with physical therapy at Empire Physical Therapy & Athletic Rehabilitation.


Billy Reilly, MS, PT, and Paul LaRosa, MS, PT, tailor your treatment not only to your condition, but to your specific medical history, any other health conditions you may be living with, and other factors. 

Even though our team treats multiple conditions, they have deep knowledge about each one.

Plantar fasciitis vs. foot sprain

Obviously, you need to know what you’re dealing with when you have a foot condition, since the optimal treatment approach for each one is going to differ and will depend on the specifics of the condition or injury.

First, let’s talk about plantar fasciitis. This condition affects the tendon (the plantar fascia) along the length of the bottom of your foot. It stretches from your heel to the ball of your foot, or the part that forms your arch. 

The plantar fascia gives your foot flexibility, and serves as a shock absorber of sorts. But when it gets irritated and inflamed, that’s when the pain starts. 

Plantar fasciitis symptoms include:

Plantar fasciitis discomfort can be worse when you first awaken and stand or after you’ve been off your feet for a while. It can also flare up after working out. 

Risk factors for plantar fasciitis include obesity, diabetes, improper form when exercising, and simply getting older. You’re also more at risk if you walk a good deal or stand a lot at work. 

A foot sprain has different origins and symptoms. Plantar fasciitis often develops because of overuse, while a foot sprain is the result of trauma like a sports injury (think landing awkwardly after jumping, for example) or an accident. 

With this type of foot injury, you sustain a stretch or tear of the ligament, the tissue that connects bones to other bones. Your symptoms differ depending on how severe your sprain is and its exact location, but you’ll likely experience foot:

A sprain can also prevent you from being able to put your full weight on your foot, and you may end up limping. 

Two things plantar fasciitis and foot sprains have in common are that many people suffer them each year and that seeking the help of a highly skilled physical therapist for full recovery from each problem is a must. 

How a physical therapist can help

Whether you have a sprain or plantar fasciitis, our Empire Physical Therapy & Athletic Rehabilitation team can help.

If you come to us with plantar fasciitis, our goals are to rid you of that pain, increase your mobility, and strengthen your plantar fascia. We typically recommend a combination of the following treatments:

It’s crucial to get treatment for both problems. Since each can alter your gait (the way you walk), this can cause a spiral of physical problems that extend to your unaffected foot, ankles, knees, hips, and back.  

We also help you with stretches during your office visits and send you home with exercises you can do on your own to reduce plantar fascia inflammation, and we give you advice about preventing plantar fasciitis pain from returning. 

With a foot sprain, you may come to us after keeping weight off your foot for a while, which leads to muscle weakening. Our goal is to strengthen your foot and ankle muscles, help you with balance issues, expand your range of motion, and help prevent another sprain. 

We stretch your foot, and you may also need a device that immobilizes it so you can continue to heal. 

Contact us at our New York City office in Manhattan’s Midtown East neighborhood today to schedule a consultation.

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