Background: Current evidence suggests that limited ankle dorsiflexion is an etiologic factor for plantar fasciitis. This limitation can arise from either an isolated contracture of the gastrocnemius or from a contracture of the gastrocnemius-soleus complex. This study's aim was to determine the proportion of patients with plantar fasciitis that have an associated isolated gastrocnemius contracture.
Materials and methods: This investigation was a prospective evaluation of patients with either acute or chronic plantar fasciitis. Two hundred fifty-four patients with plantar fasciitis were included. Patients were assessed for the existence of limited ankle dorsiflexion which was further characterized by noting the presence of an isolated gastrocnemius contracture or contracture of the gastrocnemius-soleus complex. The patient's duration of symptoms, type of occupation, and body mass index were also documented. Patients with acute plantar fasciitis were defined as having symptom duration of 9 months or less while those with chronic plantar fasciitis were those with over 9 months of symptoms. The Wilcoxon rank sum and chi square tests were used to compare characteristics between the acute and chronic populations.
Results: Eighty-three percent (211 of 254 patients) had limited ankle dorsiflexion. Fifty-seven percent (145 of 254) had an isolated contracture of the gastrocnemius, 26% (66 of 254) had a contracture of the gastrocnemius-soleus complex, and 17% (43 of 254) did not have a dorsiflexion limitation. Patients were further stratified into acute versus chronic symptom duration at the time of presentation. Equinus contracture was noted in 83% (129 of 155) of acute cases, and 82% (82 of 99) of chronic cases. An isolated contracture of the gastrocnemius was found in 60% (93 of 155) of acute, and 52% (52 of 99) of chronic cases. A gastrocnemius-soleus complex contracture was noted in 23% (36 of 155) of acute cases, and 30% (30 of 99) of chronic cases. Patients with chronic plantar fasciitis had a significantly higher number (p<0.05) of medical comorbidities than those with acute plantar fasciitis.
Conclusion: Limited ankle dorsiflexion is commonly associated with plantar fasciitis and more than half of these patients had evidence of an isolated gastrocnemius contracture. These findings can be utilized to develop and further refine non-operative and operative treatment strategies for those with recalcitrant plantar fasciitis.