So you wake up one morning and try to stand up when—wham!—a lancing pain shoots through your heel and slices up the back of your leg.

Chances are you have plantar fasciitis (pronounced plan-tar fash-i-eye-tus), one of the most common causes of heel pain.

The plantar fascia is a flat band of tissue that runs under your feet and connects your heel bone to your toes. When this tissue becomes inflamed, it hurts to stand or walk.

For pain relief, many foot doctors suggest simple toe, calf and towel stretches (placing a rolled towel under the ball of your foot then holding both ends of the towel and pulling it toward you while keeping your knee straight).

In addition, those who suffer from plantar fasciitis should cut back on activities that trigger the pain. Docs also advise taking over-the-counter meds for pain relief, icing the heel to reduce swelling, and investing in shoes with arch supports and cushioned insoles—or placing heel cups or inserts into footwear.

But recovery from plantar fasciitis is slow. Treatment requires commitment and consistency.