Chronic plantar heel pain (CPHP) is one of the most common soft tissue disorders of the foot, yet its aetiology is poorly understood. The purpose of this systematic review was to examine the association between CPHP and the various aetiological factors reported in the literature. Seven electronic databases and the reference lists of key articles were searched in August 2005. The resulting list of articles was assessed by two independent reviewers according to pre-determined selection criteria and a final list of articles for review was created. The methodological quality of the included articles was assessed and the evidence presented in each of the articles was descriptively analysed. From the 16 included articles, body mass index in a non-athletic population and the presence of calcaneal spur were the two factors found to have an association with CPHP. Increased weight in a non athletic population, increased age, decreased ankle dorsiflexion, decreased first metatarsophalangeal joint extension and prolonged standing all demonstrated some evidence of an association with CPHP. Evidence for static foot posture and dynamic foot motion was inconclusive and height, weight and BMI in an athletic population were not associated with CPHP. The findings of this review should be used to guide the focus of prospective cohort studies, the results of which would ultimately provide a list of risk factors for CPHP. Such a list is essential in the development of new and improved preventative and treatment strategies for CPHP.
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