Plantar fasciitis is very common. It is characterized by stabbing heel pain, which can be particularly severe when taking the first few steps after resting or after long periods of sitting. The initial pain resolves after walking a few steps but tends to return later if you continue to move.
The plantar fascia is a thick piece of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot. It connects the heel with the toes and acts to absorb the shock of each step and support the arch of the foot as it flexes during walking, running, jumping, and dancing. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia becomes inflamed. Causes of plantar fascia include suddenly increasing the length or intensity of any physical activity, being obese, wearing worn-out or high-heeled shoes, and spending hours standing or walking on hard surfaces at work.
Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis
There is no universally accepted treatment for this condition. Afflicted individuals usually recover after a few months, especially if they avoid activities that worsen the pain and engage in stretching and exercise therapy. In severe cases, night splints, special orthotics, and even surgery may be necessary to relieve the pain.
Stretching Exercises To Relieve Plantar Fasciitis Pain
The crippling pain associated with plantar fasciitis can be relieved by carefully stretching the calf muscle, the plantar fascia, and the various muscles associated with the ankle. It is important not to stretch too aggressively and aggravate the condition. Typical stretches include:
- Stretching the calf: Stand facing a wall. Place your hands on the wall and stretch one leg out behind you, placing the foot firmly on the floor. Lean forward against the wall until the calf in the stretched-out leg starts to stretch. Intensify the stretch, but not until it becomes painful, and hold for a slow count of 30. Repeat with the other leg.
- Stretch the shin: Sit in a chair and straighten one leg out. Point the toe as far as it will go and hold for a slow count of 30. Repeat with the other leg.
- Plantar fascia stretch: Sit in a chair and grasp the toes of one foot. Pull the toes back until a stretch is felt in the sole of the foot. Hold for a slow count of 30. Repeat with the other foot.
- Foam rolling: Place a foam roller on the floor. Hold onto a wall or sturdy piece of furniture for safety. Place one foot on the foam roller and press down, rolling the foot back and forth to stretch out the sole of the foot.
Exercises To Strengthen the Foot and Ankle Muscles
Exercises designed to strengthen the muscles in the feet and ankles may help relieve and prevent plantar fasciitis pain. The plantar fascia helps support the arch of the foot, and strengthening muscles that also help support the arch of the foot can take some of the pressure off the plantar fascia.
Some exercises that can help strengthen the foot and ankle muscles include:
- Scrunch it: Put a towel on the floor and sit in a chair with your bare feet on the towel. Use your toes to grip and scrunch up the towel, and then try to push it toward you with your toes without moving any other part of your body. Continue the exercise for three minutes or until your feet are too fatigued to continue.
- Stabilize it: Place a firm pillow on the floor. Hold onto a wall or sturdy piece of furniture for safety. Put one foot on the pillow and then lift the other foot off the floor and hold for 30 seconds and then rest, repeating three times per foot. This exercise requires your foot and ankle muscles to work hard to keep you upright.
- Frankenstein walking: In bare feet or grippy socks, step forward with one foot and land on your heel. Roll your weight up to your toe, and then stand on your toe while you swing the next leg through to land on your heel.
Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis can be extremely painful. It is best to try hard not to develop the condition by wearing sensible shoes in good repair, not suddenly increasing the intensity or duration of any physical activity, not standing or walking for lengthy periods on hard surfaces, and keeping your ankles, calves, and feet as strong and flexible as possible. However, if you do develop the condition, do not despair. A systematic program of stretching, muscle strengthening, and avoiding activities that worsen the pain will resolve this annoying condition.