What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a condition caused by inflammation in the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissues that connects at the bottom of the heel bone and extends down to the toes. It helps absorb shock and plays a part in propelling you forward when you walk. Inflammation usually occurs where the tissue connects to the heel, but some people experience pain in their arch as well.
Plantar fasciitis is generally caused by stress that leads to fatigue and breakdown in the tissue. These are some of the most common stressors:
- Jobs that require you to be on your feet for extended periods of time
- Playing sports that require a lot of running and jumping
- Increasing your activity level too quickly
- A significant increase in body weight
- Improper footwear
Vulnerability due to biological factors can also play a role.
How to Tell if You Have Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis may start off as a dull pain that isn’t too debilitating, but it can get worse over time. Common symptoms include:
- Sharp, stabbing pain on the bottom of the foot, near the heel
- Pain that is severe first thing in the morning when you get out of bed, then decreases after a few minutes
- Pain that is worse after standing for a long time or exercising
- Pain when you press on the sides of your heel or the arch of your foot
- Discomfort when stretching your foot
There are other common conditions which cause heel pain, such as heel spurs and achilles tendonitis. A podiatrist (a foot specialist) will be able to tell you what’s wrong. If you’re not sure about your symptoms, it’s always best to get a doctor’s opinion. A physical therapist who specializes in feet will also be able to give you a customized treatment plan.
Plantar Fasciitis Exercises to Help You Heal
Plantar fasciitis is extremely common and responds well to non-surgical treatment in most cases. However, the longer you leave plantar fasciitis untreated, the longer it usually takes to resolve.
The best way to treat plantar fasciitis is to take the stress off the plantar fascia, which allows it to heal.
Though it’s usually hard to tell what caused the inflammation in the first place, there are a few simple, proven ways to reduce stress on the plantar fascia.
Sometimes excessive tightness in the muscles surrounding the plantar fascia can cause the condition or make it worse. This tightness can be due to many factors, including your activities, your bone structure, the way you walk, and your footwear.
Stretching is a great way to loosen these muscles. These stretches are easy and effective.
- Stand about 1 to 2 feet from a wall (or chair).
- Put your hands on the the wall, keeping them outstretched
- Lean on the wall, then put one foot in front of you, and the other foot behind you in line with the front foot.
- Keep your back foot flat on the ground and lean forward slightly. You should feel the stretch in the back of your heel and your calf.
- Hold for ten seconds
- Stand on a step. Slowly back up, letting your heels over the edge of the step.
- Relax your calves so your ankles lower. Hold for 15-20 seconds, then tighten your calf muscles to bring your heels up again.
- Place marbles next to a cup on the floor.
- Sitting on a chair, lift the marbles from the floor and into the cup with your toes.
- Try to get 15 marbles into the cup
For most of us, the only extended period of time we get with our feet up is when we’re asleep. That's why night time is the best time for your plantar fascia to heal.
However, when you lay in bed your feet naturally point downward. Throughout the night, your calf muscle, achilles tendon, and plantar fascia all shorten, as they don’t need to stretch as much as they do when your feet are at a 90-degree angle.
When you get out of bed, your injured plantar fasciitis has to quickly and painfully stretch back out again as your feet meet the floor. This is why it’s so painful to take your first few steps in the morning.
If you keep your foot at a 90 degree angle all night, you won’t experience that pain in the morning. Your plantar fascia can also heal without the agitation of abruptly stretching out every morning.
We have a very simple, comfortable night sock that works just as well as traditional, cumbersome splints, though those work as well.
Another way to relieve stress on the plantar fascia is with insoles. Sometimes, our feet can’t hold us up the way they should. You can get heel supports which prevent rolling and absorb extra shock - this is a very simple solution and it often relieves the pain right away. We have a few different heel cups that are great for plantar fasciitis.
Custom orthotics are a good solution if heel cups don't provide enough support for your feet. You will need to visit a foot orthotic shop to get a pair. Custom foot orthotics can be expensive, but they are often covered by extended medical plans.
If All Else Fails...
Sometimes foot and heel pain is tricky to figure out and treat. These are three general treatments that work for most cases, but sometimes there are multiple reasons for the pain you're experiencing. We always recommend visiting a foot specialist to get a specific diagnosis and treatment plan if you don't find these treatments successful.