There is no one-size-fits-all solution to foot pain affecting the plantar fascia, or the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot from the heel to the toes.
However, these science-backed tips will help you heal from plantar fasciitis and get back to normal as soon as possible:
1. Massage Therapy
Massages are a core component of a plantar fasciitis recovery plan. A professional plantar fascia massage directly targets the sources of pain by eliminating tension, inducing relaxation, and increasing nutrient and oxygen intake in the muscles. Deep tissue massage is often a component of good physical therapy protocol for heel pain as well.
2. The Healing Sole
Walking around can do two things for heel pain: exacerbate plantar fasciitis or alleviate it. The design goal of The Healing Sole is to reduce and alleviate the pain associated with plantar fasciitis. The Healing Sole was engineered to support natural healing capabilities with every step. In fact, in a pilot study, The Healing Sole showed that 80% of participants experienced less pain and improved function after just one month. More importantly, 94% said they would recommend the shoe to friends and family.
3. Foam Roller Massage
Plantar fascia tissue often becomes painful when it is overstressed. Areas of the fascia become disorganized and thick and have higher concentrations of painful molecules. The gentle, sustained pressure of a foam roller massage increases tissue mobility and breaks apart problematic new-growth tissue, facilitating recovery.
4. Compression Socks
Swelling is a common symptom of plantar fasciitis and one that compression can help manage. Specially made socks that apply constant pressure may help to support the foot and reduce soreness and inflammation by a reduction in tissue fluid burden (or swelling). In addition, compression can make the foot and ankle muscles themselves more efficient, thereby reducing stress on the structures of the fascia indirectly.
You can’t usually sleep away plantar fasciitis, but giving your feet time to relax is extremely important for recovery. Just don’t forget the other core components of a recovery plan, including stretching, massage, and utilizing the right footwear. It is possible to ‘rest’ the plantar fascia during daily activities in the right footwear and following the right principles of stretching and ergonomics. Diet is also very important for recovery, and abundant phytochemicals should be consumed as well as less inflammatory foods during recovery.
6. Frozen Water-bottle Therapy
Massages and cold compresses both help to decrease the pain and inflammation around the plantar fascia. Water bottles are easy to find! Rolling your foot back and forth on the cylindrical shape of the frozen bottle will help to stretch the footbed, increasing flexibility and working the tissue. The cold will cause numbness in the sensory pain fibers and produce comfort.
7. Foot Splints
Foot splints and night slings hold the foot in a 90-degree angle during sleep. This is recommended if one of the sources of pain in the heel is from a tight Achilles tendon (or the heel cord). Theoretically, the splint will stretch that tendon overnight. If your heel pain is not from the plantar fascia but rather from a nerve, this may make the pain worse and should be stopped.
8. Tennis Ball Massage
Here’s an easy stretch to do in the office: while sitting in a chair with a straight back, place the arch of your foot onto the tennis ball. Slowly apply pressure with your foot to loosen up your plantar fascia and help it to become less irritated. As you roll your foot around the ball, you are essentially performing a type of deep tissue massage. Different densities of balls should be alternated as well (such as tennis balls, lacrosse balls, and golf balls).
9. Shockwave Therapy
Probably not for the faint of heart (or light of wallet), this procedure uses either pressurized air or electromagnetic pulses to deliver shock waves to the foot. It’s fairly painful, but a 2017 study found that the practice is effective. Multiple treatments are usually required. Anesthesia is recommended. This is not covered by insurance companies and each visit may cost upwards of $600.
10. Orthotic Inserts
Cushy inserts can be more than just temporary comfort. Well designed orthotics that account for individual foot anatomy may function as shock absorbers for high impact footsteps, and they also help prevent the plantar fascia from stretching out any further. If an alignment issue is a source of tension on the fascia, inserts can alter the alignment to a more favorable position.