Plantar fasciitis is an incredibly painful condition that affects many Americans. Plantar fasciitis is the degeneration of the plantar fascia, the fascia tissue that connects the heel to the forefoot and toes and also supports the arch of the foot. The natural history of plantar fasciitis is that it waxes and wanes; or, it comes and goes. For those who have experienced this painful condition, the fear of it returning is all too familiar, as most people who experience plantar fasciitis will have recurrences over time. Plantar fasciitis is common, especially with athletes and runners, but can affect just about anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet. The condition is linked to overuse and stress on the foot, and while treatable, recurrences are frequent. So what steps can we take to help reduce the likelihood of a recurrence?
Stretching is Key
For most runners and athletes, stretching is an everyday practice when getting ready to perform strenuous activities. It prevents you from damaging muscles during activity and can ease or prevent muscle soreness afterward. Flexibility allows the muscles, connective tissue and bones to function at an optimal level. When it comes to plantar fasciitis, there are specific stretches that you can perform that will not only ease the symptoms of plantar fasciitis but can help prevent it from coming back. One of the most important times to stretch your feet is before getting out of bed, or after long periods of rest. Laying in bed overnight or sitting for long time periods allows the plantar fascia to contract. A sudden load on that contracted band of tissue is very painful. To prevent that ‘start-up’ pain, one must stretch. Start by moving and flexing your foot, then from a sitting position place on leg across the other (The legs form a figure ‘4’). Finally, pull back on your toes towards your body and hold the position for 10-20 seconds and repeat several times. To advance that stretch, massage the bottom of the foot with the other hand. For more info, check out our plantar fasciitis exercises page.
Choose the Right Shoes
If you perform a lot of physical activity or are on your feet a lot during the day, you more than likely understand the importance of wearing comfortable shoes. More importantly though, is making sure that the shoes you’re wearing offer the proper support for your foot. Choose shoes that provide a good size-specific arch support and have a slightly raised heel. High heels are not good for people with plantar fasciitis, but a slight raise can be beneficial. If you’d rather avoid purchasing a new pair of shoes, consider buying insoles that offer this same type of support. For better support, you can choose shoes with removable insoles and obtain custom-made orthotics from your doctor which can help to correct a number of issues. Custom-made orthotics are typically very expensive.
Reduce the Amount of Stress on Your Foot
While it may not always be possible or even desirable to reduce your daily activities if you’re an athlete or your job requires you to spend most of your time on your feet, there are steps you can take to help reduce the amount of stress placed on your foot. Take a chance to rest during the day when given the opportunity, even a short 5-10 minute break during your work day can give your feet time to recover, take this as an opportunity to do some light stretching. While plantar fasciitis can affect anyone, people who are overweight are more prone to the condition because of the added stress placed on the foot to support the extra weight. If you are overweight and suffering from plantar fasciitis, losing weight over time through a healthy diet and exercise plan can help to reduce the stress placed on your foot and thus minimize the likelihood of plantar fasciitis symptoms.