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01-12-2020 | Research | Uitgave 1/2020 Open Access

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 1/2020

Lived experience and attitudes of people with plantar heel pain: a qualitative exploration

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research > Uitgave 1/2020
Matthew Cotchett, Michael Skovdal Rathleff, Matthew Dilnot, Karl B. Landorf, Dylan Morrissey, Christian Barton
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Supplementary information

Supplementary information accompanies this paper at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13047-020-0377-3.

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Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.



Plantar heel pain is a common source of pain and disability. Evidence-based treatment decisions for people with plantar heel pain should be guided by the best available evidence, expert clinical reasoning, and consider the needs of the patient. Education is a key component of care for any patient and needs to be tailored to the patient and their condition. However, no previous work has identified, far less evaluated, the approaches and content required for optimal education for people with plantar heel pain. The aim of this study was to gather the patients’ perspective regarding their lived experience, attitudes and educational needs in order to inform the content and provision of meaningful education delivery approaches.


Using a qualitative descriptive design, semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants with a clinical diagnosis of plantar heel pain. A topic guide was utilised that focused on the experience of living with plantar heel pain and attitudes regarding treatment and educational needs. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using the Framework approach. Each transcription, and the initial findings, were reported back to participants to invite respondent validation.


Eighteen people with plantar heel pain were interviewed. Descriptive analysis revealed eight themes including perceptions of plantar heel pain, impact on self, dealing with plantar heel pain, source of information, patient needs, patient unmet needs, advice to others and interest in online education. Participants revealed doubt about the cause, treatment and prognosis of plantar heel pain. They also expressed a desire to have their pain eliminated and education individually tailored to their condition and needs. Respondent validation revealed that the transcripts were accurate, and participants were able to recognise their own experiences in the synthesised themes.


Plantar heel pain has a negative impact on health-related quality of life. Participants wanted their pain eliminated and reported that their expectations and needs were frequently unmet. Health professionals have an important role to be responsive to the needs of the patient to improve their knowledge and influence pain and behaviour. Our study informs the content needed to help educate people with plantar heel pain.

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