Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. It is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot extending from the heel bone to the base of your toes. When there is tension on the fascia, it can cause small tears. Repetitive stress to the area increases the irritation which leads to an inflammatory response. Some of the most common cause are…
- Distance running (especially with inappropriate or old shoes)
- Flat feet or high arches
- Abnormal gait
- Tight calves
- Wearing high heels
- Standing on your feet all day
- Feet that roll in (excessive pronation)
The most classic symptom is stabbing pain on the bottom of the foot, near the heel with the first few steps after getting out of bed OR after sitting for a long time. Pain is also common with climbing stairs.
- Ice for 10 minutes, 3-4 times a day
- Decrease activity. If you are a runner you may need to stop running completely for a few weeks.
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Use a night splint to keep the fascia stretched while you sleep to help reduce the “first step” pain
- Wear a heel wedge in your shoe to decrease plantar fascial strain when standing. Make sure the thicker part of the wedge is on the inside of your foot.
After the acute phase:
Deep tissue massage helps to encourage blood flow and break up adhesions. You can initiate this by rolling a golf ball or frozen water bottle under your foot. It is also helpful to have a massage therapist perform deep tissue massage to your calf.
Gentle stretching of the calf: Keep toes of both feet pointing forward and back knee straight. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
Gentle toe stretching: Pull back the toes from where they attach to your foot. Gently. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
Towel scrunches: Put a small towel on smooth floor (not carpet). Sit on a chair with the affected foot flat on the towel. Your foot should be directly under your knee. Grab the towel with your toes and release. Do 10-15 repetitions twice daily.
One limb stance: Stand on your affected foot, barefoot. Try to hold your balance 30-60 seconds. This will help strengthen your foot and calf muscles.
Unfortunately, once you have plantar fasciitis it can take several weeks and up to several months to resolve. Its important to continue your treatment throughout the process. If your symptoms worsen or do not appear to be resolving after 3-4 weeks of trying the above suggestions it may be necessary to seek treatment from a physical therapist. Don’t lose heart. Eventually it WILL get better.