Recently, I've had several clients reach out with questions about what plantar fasciitis is and how to heal when you have a bout of it. Read on and I will cover how to prevent this pesky injury and what to do when you get it.
What exactly is plantar fasciitis? Plantar fasciitis is very painful. The sharp stabbing pain in the heel of one or both of your feet will put a fast stop to running, dancing, or even standing. Plantar fasciitis happens when the plantar fascia becomes painfully inflamed. This condition is created by small tears to the plantar fascia, which is the fibrous band of tissue on the sole of the foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when this band of tissue is overloaded or overstretched. 95% of people who get plantar fasciitis are able to heal the issue without surgical intervention.
Who is at risk for plantar fasciitis?
No longer in their 30s. Plantar fasciitis is most common between the ages of 40 and 60.
Very active and not stretching enough. Activities that place a lot of stress on your heel and attached tissue — such as long-distance running, dancing and aerobics can lead to this injury. Those who do not stretch their calves, hips, and feet are more likely to get it.
Those who have feet issues. Being flat-footed, having high arches, over-pronation, and having poor leg to ankle to foot alignment can put added stress on the plantar fascia.
Excessive body weight. Being over weight or obese can put extra stress on your plantar fascia.
Those who work on their feet. Cooks, manual laborers, retail associates, waitstaff, teachers and others who spend most of their work hours walking or standing on hard surfaces can damage their plantar fascia.
How can I prevent plantar fasciitis?
Wear proper shoes. High-heeled shoes and boots, shoes with poor arch support, old running shoes, and flip flops are all problems. If you know you are going to be on your feet for a long period of time, going for a long walk, or planning to run the distance, make sure that your shoes support your arches and help with your foot alignment. Ideally your 2nd toe, the toe next to your big toe should be pointed to twelve o’clock while you run and stand. Proper arch support, room for toes to spread, and an even foot bed are best.
Spend time barefoot. Walking, dancing, doing yoga, running, or being at home, barefoot will help strengthen your feet and stretch the fascia. Those who have strong feet are less likely to get plantar fasciitis.
Stretch and strengthen. In addition to your feet, stretching and strengthening your hips, calves, and ankles, will prevent all kinds of injuries and especially plantar fasciitis. Over-pronation is the number one cause of plantar fasciitis. Due to modern footwear, poor hip and core strength, and a more sedentary lifestyle, most people’s feet over-pronate, leaving them at risk. Stretching calves, doing hip openers and lunges, squats, stretching feet and toes, and doing core exercises will all help.
Focus on nutrition. Simply put, a diet high in omega-3s, protein, and anti-oxidants will help give your body the circulation and injury prevention it needs. Collagen, fish oil, and high quality fats will also help support strong and healthy fascia, ligaments, and bones. Hydration is always important when considering injury prevention.
Regular bodywork. Unless you are an incredibly balanced and body literate person, you are likely out of alignment. Deep tissue massage focusing on hips, calves, hamstrings, and spine, will help keep your body functioning properly.
How do I relieve plantar fasciitis?
Rest! For competitive athletes and those who work on their feet, this may be hard. However, resting and letting the fascia heal is highly effective.
Ice. Limit the pain and swelling with regular icing. Freezing a water bottle or frozen golf ball is an excellent tool to both ice the injury site and gently stretch the fascia, by rolling the arch of your foot on the frozen round instrument. The smaller golf ball will let you get into more areas, while the larger frozen water bottle will help you gently massage your foot.
Orthotics. Purchase specially designed shoes made with extra arch support and redistribution how the foot is weighted in the shoe. Night splints are often recommended to keep the ankle in a neutral position which expedites the healing process. In some cases, simply getting a new pair of running or walking shoes is enough to correct an early stage problem.
Stretching. As we discussed above, stretching the feet and especially calves are of paramount importance, and then the strengthening hips and core for prevention.
Deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage will loosen muscle tissue, remove muscle toxins, and help give proper circulation of blood and oxygen to the injured area. This form of therapy works because it physically breaks down the adhesions at the injury site. As a result, pain is decreased there is more ease with walking, standing, dancing, vacuuming, and other fun daily activities. This form of treatment takes time and multiple sessions. There is a high incident partial to full relief from the pain of plantar fasciitis with a deep tissue series.