What is Commonly Misdiagnosed as Plantar Fasciitis

Oct 20, 2023


Plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition that causes heel pain, particularly in the morning or after periods of rest. However, there are several other conditions that can be misdiagnosed as plantar fasciitis due to similar symptoms. It is important to be aware of these conditions to ensure accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. In this article, we will explore some of the conditions that are commonly misdiagnosed as plantar fasciitis.

1. Heel Spurs

Heel spurs are bony growths that develop on the underside of the heel bone. They often occur alongside plantar fasciitis, leading to confusion in diagnosis. While plantar fasciitis is characterized by inflammation of the plantar fascia, heel spurs are actually calcium deposits that form over time. Diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays, can help differentiate between the two conditions.

2. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition that occurs when the tibial nerve is compressed or irritated as it passes through the tarsal tunnel, located on the inside of the ankle. This can cause pain and tingling in the heel and arch of the foot, similar to the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Proper examination and nerve conduction studies can help identify tarsal tunnel syndrome.

Plantar Fasciitis

3. Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are small cracks in the bone that can occur due to repetitive stress or overuse. These fractures often develop in the metatarsal bones of the foot, causing pain and tenderness. The symptoms of stress fractures can mimic those of plantar fasciitis, making it important to consider this possibility, especially if symptoms persist despite conservative treatment.

4. Nerve Entrapment

Nerve entrapment occurs when a nerve is compressed or irritated by surrounding tissues. In the foot, the most common nerve involved is the posterior tibial nerve, which can cause pain and numbness in the heel and arch. Nerve conduction studies and electromyography can help diagnose nerve entrapment and differentiate it from plantar fasciitis.

Heel Pain

5. Achilles Tendinitis

Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. This condition often causes pain and stiffness in the back of the heel, similar to the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. However, the pain with Achilles tendinitis is typically more localized to the tendon itself. A thorough examination can help distinguish between the two conditions.

6. Fat Pad Atrophy

Fat pad atrophy is a condition where the fat pad on the heel becomes thin or degenerates. This can result in increased pressure on the underlying structures, leading to heel pain that may be mistaken for plantar fasciitis. Physical examination and imaging can help determine if fat pad atrophy is the cause of the symptoms.

Foot Pain


While plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition, it is crucial to consider other possible diagnoses when symptoms persist or do not respond to treatment. Heel spurs, tarsal tunnel syndrome, stress fractures, nerve entrapment, Achilles tendinitis, and fat pad atrophy are just a few examples of conditions that can be misdiagnosed as plantar fasciitis. Seeking professional medical advice and appropriate diagnostic tests can help ensure accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for these conditions.