Does your heel hurt? Plantar Fasciitis (plan-tar fash-ee-eye-tus), or PF for short, is one of the most common causes of foot pain (specifically in the heel).
Here are a few things you can try if your plantar’s fascia becomes inflamed.
What Is PF?
The ligament called the plantar fascia is a flat band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. One of its most important duties is to support the arch of your foot. If you upset your plantar fascia, it can get swollen, irritated, and inflamed, which will make your heel hurt when you stand or walk. The pain is often stabbing and intense during your first few steps in the morning, and again after any time you spend sitting idly for a while. Other than that, it is mostly confined to an annoying ache.
Plantar fasciitis is defined as “an overuse syndrome characterized by localized inflammation or degeneration of the plantar fascia.”
Plantar fasciitis is common in middle-aged people, and it can occur in one foot or both feet.
How to Treat It
Common treatments for Plantar Fasciitis include using a heel insert, night splints that keep your foot in a flexed position (I already have trouble sleeping at night – meh), non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (masking the pain—meh), injection of a corticosteroid (maybe, if it gets that bad, but until then—meh), and staying off your feet (be more sedentary—double meh).
Here are some other treatments that I prefer:
Stretching is extremely helpful for treating Plantar Fasciitis because it can help reduce inflammation and provide greater elasticity in and around the affected area. If you have PF, you should stretch your calves and your hamstrings. It would help if you also stopped wearing shoes with heels (any size of heel), which is known to cause shortening of your Achilles tendons, hamstrings, and more.
Massage therapy is one of the most popular forms of dealing with plantar fasciitis. Our body’s soft tissue areas are composed of muscles, connective tissues, and tendons, and massage therapy can loosen those tight muscles and encourage upset tissue to relax. Massage also increases blood circulation to the injured areas, which increases nutrient and oxygen uptake in the tissue.
The tension in the plantar fascia is often caused by, or results from, tension higher up the leg. Most of the time, massage provides significant short-term pain relief.
3. Roll Out Your Feet
Gently rolling out your affected foot for a few minutes can help loosen up your plantar fascia, which can make it less irritated. Do it while watching tv by using a tennis ball, a golf ball, a fancy Kinesio ball, or anything else that fits under your foot and can be rolled around.
Pro Tip: If your heel is really sore, roll it out with a frozen water bottle. You get the massage benefits and the icing pain relief all in one.
4. HEEL Drops
Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. Stand on the edge of a stair and do a simple calf raise. Then you basically let go, drop your heels and allow all of your body weight to kick off a “repair me” response in the affected tissue.
5. Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT)
This treatment can be compared to having a tiny jackhammer applied to your body. In ESWT, sound waves bombard your heel to stimulate healing within the ligament. This is thought to work by creating microtrauma in the tissue, which initiates a healing response. Blood vessels then form and increase the delivery of nutrients to the affected area. Microtrauma is thought to stimulate a repair process but also helps to relieve pain.
6. Graston Technique or Scraping
In the Graston technique, a trained professional uses a small stainless steel instrument (like a dull butter knife) to apply progressive, targeted pressure to the plantar fascia. This targeted pressure breaks up adhesions and scar tissue in the inflamed, damaged ligament, improving blood flow, and encouraging healthy tissue to regenerate.
7. Toe Alignment Socks
Foot or toe alignment socks are designed to help align the toes back to their more natural (non-shoed) position. The socks stretch your toes apart, so you can return to walking the correct way. The socks feature spacers between the toes, much like those you may use while getting a pedicure. If you look at a baby or toddler’s toes, you’ll see how they have air between them, and yours are all bunched together. That is a result of wearing shoes for years and is exactly what the socks are aiming to counteract.
To demonstrate how good this feels, slide your fingers between your toes and leave them there for a couple of minutes. After years of wearing shoes that mash our toes together, returning them to their natural state will take longer than you can likely sit and hold your toes apart, which is why you can order socks for this.
The best way to help your Plantar Fasciitis is to be proactive about preventing it from happening and returning. Stretch regularly, allow your feet to return to a more natural position by letting them be free (and naked) as often as possible, roll your feet out if you have been on them all day or have been wearing tight shoes, jam your fingers between your toes now and then, and basically never forget about your feet.