Sources, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention of Plantar Fasciitis
Our feet are the base of all our upright movements. Therefore, and coming from personal experience, any pain in our lower extremities can greatly affect our ability to be comfortable and stay active. Plantar fasciitis is a foot problem that impacts many people, not just athletes. Let me share my journey dealing with this injury, and along the way we’ll review common plantar fasciitis causes, as well as remedies and ways to avoid it.
I have been suffering from plantar fasciitis since September, 2020. This has forced me to revisit my foot mechanics and the articulation of force from joint to joint. I have tried and tested many various treatment methods, and will share the ones I have found to be more effective. I’ll also vouch for some tools you can pick up to aid in recovery.
Watch and listen to this quick video about my experience and insight regarding this foot ailment. Then continue reading for more information about how to deal with plantar fasciitis.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
The thick tissue that connects your heel to the front of your foot is called the plantar fascia (pronounced “plant-taar fash-ya”). This ligament runs along the bottom of your foot, and its tension supports the foot’s arch, much like the string of a bow. It literally puts the spring in your step. Plantar fasciitis (pronounced “plan-taar fah-shee-eye-tis”) is the inflammation of this connective tissue. It occurs when the plantar fascia is overly strained and becomes damaged or torn.
Plantar fasciitis happens quite often to runners as well as people who have flat feet, high arches, are overweight, or stand all day. The most common sources of plantar fasciitis are simply running and jumping, or standing for too long without proper foot support. Other instigators are activities that place extra stress on your heel and the attached tissue. Examples are long-distance running, ballet dancing and aerobic dancing. Basically, anything that causes the “rubber band”-like tendon to be pulled too tightly, too suddenly or too often.
Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms
The stress on the fascia causes micro-tears which lead to the obvious symptoms of plantar fasciitis such as swelling, tightness, and pain. People with plantar fasciitis, myself included, describe the feeling as a stabbing pain in the bottom of their foot. This discomfort is most often felt towards the heel, but may occur in the arch or even near the ball of the foot, depending on where the damage was done. The sensation is not constant. It is most prominent after the foot has rested in one position for a while. Therefore, the pain is most pronounced first thing in the morning when taking your first steps, and walking anytime after long periods of standing or sitting. And this may sound strange, but the pain is usually worse after exercise, not during the moment of movement.
Treatment Of Inflamed Plantar Fascia
There are many possible injuries that can give you sore feet. Although all may cause pain, the treatment for plantar fasciitis is very different than what is needed for a bone spur, fracture, or gout. Therefore, it is important to get a professional opinion about your condition. Once you have confirmed what you are dealing with, then you can take the appropriate action.
The first thing to keep in mind is: plantar fasciitis can take between 6 to 12 months to heal. So be patient and diligent with treatment. For anybody asking:
How can I heal my plantar fasciitis in a week?
The answer is: Unfortunately, you most likely can’t. You will be able to relieve the pain and start the mending process within a week; however, a full recovery will take time.
When it comes to treatment for plantar fasciitis, the first thing you’ll need is rest. Get off you feet and alleviate the weight from your ailing foot.
The next recommendation is to reduce inflammation with ice. Use an ice pack to cool your foot/heel at least 3-4 times a day (more if you can), for at least 15 minutes each time.
You can encourage the healing process with massage. The idea is to apply focused pressure to the affected area. This can temporarily relieve some of the pain. It also encourages blood flow, which brings helps bring the nourishment to the injured and recuperating cells. Additionally, this gently stretches the tendon so it will not be so tight when you need to walk. Use your thumb, a foot roller, a tennis ball or lacrosse ball to hit just the right spot with the pressure you need.
Tip: Freeze a water bottle to ice & roll your foot at the same time!
EXERCISE & STRETCH
Even though you can’t run, be sure to exercise and stretch. Definitely stretch your calves, Achilles tendon, and the bottom of your foot. Being limber reduces the tension that causes the micro-tears. Also do exercises that strengthen your lower leg and foot muscles. This can help stabilize your ankle, ease pain, and keep plantar fasciitis from returning.
Use a special night sock for plantar fasciitis. These are designed to be worn particularly when you are sleeping, but can be worn any time of day that you are off your feet. Using a strap attached to the toe area, which is then wrapped around your calf, the sock will keep your plantar fascia stretched.
SHOES & INSERTS
It is always important to wear the right shoes for the activity you are doing. When it comes to plantar fasciitis, use appropriate athletic shoes when exercising. Even if you are just standing or walking all day, you need to utilize the correct footwear. Your shoes should provide stability and security. However, the shoe should also be flexible where it needs to be, like under the ball of the foot. Most importantly, look for a shoe that has the correct arch support for your feet. In addition to shoes, you can also find insoles and inserts that are designed to help keep your foot and arch correctly padded and supported.
Although these don’t directly heal the tendon, if the pain is too great, some over-the-counter pain killers may help you. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can make your foot feel better and help with inflammation.
If all of the above at-home treatments do not seem to be effective enough, your doctor may recommend a cortisone shot. The injection will be applied directly to the area of injury, and typically consists of the steroid along with a numbing agent. The numbing effect may last a few hours, after which you may feel the pain again, although a bit reduced. The cortisone will reduce the inflammation and decrease the pain for several weeks or months.
Also note that plantar fasciitis can cause other issues beside just foot pain. If ignored or otherwise not treated properly, you may end up with chronic heel pain that affects all your activities. Additionally, your body may try to compensate by relieving pressure on your foot. This can lead to an aggravated Achilles tendon, sore knees and hips, and even back pain. So don’t try to “tough it out” and just wait for your foot to heal. Take the necessary steps to get you back to high-stepping!
In my opinion, a great way to deal with plantar fasciitis is to try avoiding it altogether. Of course, sometimes it just happens. But there are things you can do to try to prevent plantar fasciitis, such as stretching and practicing proper foot mechanics.
I highly recommend you take a look at GOATA (Greatest Of All Time Actions). My friend, Ann, provided a fantastic introduction to GOATA movement which you can watch here. I personally practiced with her to help with proper foot mechanics. It did wonders for me, so I’m sure it can benefit others, as well. Along with how you move, always keep your shoes and foot support in mind. As mentioned above, consider the type of activity you are doing, and use the correct gear to support the required mechanics and pressure on the foot.
Having a planned and scheduled stretching program helps a lot; not just in preventing plantar fasciitis, but also in active recovery of the muscles, tendons and joints. It improves flexibility, mobility and circulation across the body. Therefore, stretching should be as important as the workout itself and should always appear on your calendar or as an alert on your phone. In my case, I spend most of my evenings stretching on the floor while watching some Netflix shortly after dinner. I also include 10-15 minutes of yoga first thing in the morning to bring back the mobility, circulation and flexibility across the body.
Follow along with me during my moring yoga routine
And finally: when it comes to plantar fasciitis, it’s all about patience. The foot will need time to heal, so be sure to change your program to keep the pressure off your foot. The rest of your body is still fine – abs, back, arms and shoulders, quads and hamstrings. Even the corrective movements and exercises for proper foot mechanics can be worked in with bodyweight forward lunges for example, or static tempo squats.
Wrapping it up…
Knowledge is power, but only if you use it. And an ounce of prevention goes a long way. Plantar fasciitis can take a long time to heal, so do what you can to avoid the injury. But if you do find yourself with a tender foot, hopefully you now feel better equipped to understand causes of plantar fasciitis, and how to address it.
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