Plantar fasciitis, chances are you’ve probably heard this term before. You or someone you know may probably has/had plantar fasciitis. Roughly one out of ten individuals will experience plantar fasciitis at least once in their lives which makes it a very common injury. On top of it being common many individuals who get plantar fasciitis have it reoccur repeatedly which makes it a stubborn and frustrating injury.
Many people know plantar fasciitis deals with the feet and causes pain but don’t understand why it occurs or how to treat/prevent it. When googling you will find generic responses of stretch your foot, wear good shoes or rest, but no specific guidance on where to start. This can make you feel lost or overwhelmed when trying to manage your plantar fasciitis. In this blog, I will break down what plantar fasciitis is so we can have an idea of how to proactively treat it. From there I will provide specific tips on how to treat and prevent plantar fasciitis through exercises and footwear.
So, What is Plantar Fasciitis and What Causes it?
In order to know what plantar fasciitis is, we need to break the term apart. Plantar fascia, as you can see below, is a ligament that supports the bottom of your foot. This tissue attaches from your heel to the front of your foot and helps bring stability to the longitudinal arches (arches that go from your heel to your toes) of your foot. The suffix – itis means inflammation. Therefore, plantar fasciitis means inflammation of the plantar fascia ligament that supports the bottom of your foot.
So, what causes the inflammation? There are many ways that plantar fasciitis can be caused but some of the more common are tightness/weakness, decreased elasticity of the ligament which comes with age, obesity, and the way you walk/stand (there can be a combination of these which can result of plantar fasciitis). No matter what the cause, the plantar fascia becomes inflamed through little tears in the ligament. The most common symptom and telling sign of plantar fasciitis is sharp pain on the bottom of the foot or heel that is especially present in the morning when you first wake up.
How can you Treat and Prevent Plantar Fasciitis?
Treatment and prevention will be the same with plantar fasciitis. When looking at the causes, I’ll be focusing on tightness/weakness and how you walk/stand. Below are some exercises and tips on footwear to help improve/prevent your plantar fasciitis.
In order to improve tightness in the bottom of your foot we need to stretch the ligament to prevent little tears in the plantar fascia that can cause inflammation. Here are some great stretches to incorporate a few times a day to improve the tightness of the plantar fascia.
You can utilize a tennis ball, golf ball, or water bottle. Place the object on the ground and either sit or stand with the affected foot on top of the object. Spend time rolling the object around the whole bottom of the foot. Scanning for increased tender spots. Once you have found a tender spot, spend a minute or so pushing your foot down into the object and rolling specifically on that spot. Pro tip: the harder the object you use to roll with the more intense the tender spots will feel. Start with softer objects and work towards harder objects. You can also freeze the object to provide pain relief while rolling the plantar fascia out.
Plantar Fascia Stretch
Take your toes and gentle pull them back towards your shin. You should feel the stretch on the bottom of your foot. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat a few times a day or as needed.
Stand with your hands up against a wall and with the affected foot back. Keeping your knee straight lean forward until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat with your knee bent. These two stretches should be performed a few times a day or as needed.
Weakness, a lot of times will mask itself as tightness. In the case of plantar fasciitis, the muscles that support the same arches in the foot as the plantar fascia are usually weak. Therefore, more strain is put on the plantar fascia to support the arch. Below are a few ways to begin strengthening and activating the muscles that support the arches in your foot.
Begin by sitting in a chair with your bare feet flat on the ground. Place a towel on the ground in front of your affected foot. Place your foot on the towel and using your toes try to grab the towel and pull it closer to you. Repeat this motion scrunching the towel under your foot. Perform 15 repetitions a few times a day.
This exercise can be tricky and requires more practice for some individuals. Sitting in a chair with your bare feet flat on the ground, try to raise your arch up. Your toes and heel should remain flat on the ground and only the arch moves up. Be careful not to move your knee as this is not activating the right muscles. Perform 15 repetitions a few times a day.
In a standing position, using a wall, chair, or counter for balance if needed, raise up onto your toes slowly. Then slowly lower back down.
The key is to perform slowly so that all your foot and ankle muscles have time to engage. Perform 10 repetitions a few times a day to begin.
Footwear and Orthotics:
In addition to exercises, footwear and custom orthotics can assist in helping prevent and speed up recovery. When looking at footwear, be sure to look for good stable shoes. What does that look like? Some generic signs when looking of good stable shoes are how flexible the shoe is and where the flexibility is. There shouldn’t be much flexibility in your shoe when looking for walking, standing, and casual running activities. If you can fold your shoe into a taco, that shoe has little to no stability and can prevent a speedy recovery from plantar fasciitis. The only place should be flexible is right at the base of the toes. This allows for optimal mobility when walking and casually running. If you have more questions on the type of shoe you should be wearing, feel free to give us a call.
As noted above the plantar fascia helps to support the arch of the foot. PRO Therapy offers custom foot orthotics made custom to your feet to help maximize the support given to the three arches that are found in our foot. The important part when selecting any type of custom foot orthotic or insert is to have a professional examine your foot to make sure the orthotic is customized to be exactly right for your foot. Whether you have a podiatrist, or a physical therapist examine your feet, make sure they take into account each arch of your foot to have the most impact with your orthotic. For more information on custom orthotics, give us a call to set up a free scan!
If your plantar fasciitis persists or becomes unbearable even after trying some of the above exercises, feel free to reach out to us to set up an initial evaluation. We will be able to examine your injury and progress exercises to meet the specific needs that you and your injury need. A couple techniques we use and that are very effective in treating plantar fasciitis are taping and dry needling. If you have questions about either of those treatments give us a call so we can give you more guidance as to what each treatment is.
If you need more guidance on whether physical therapy is right for you, we offer free telephone consultations and free discovery visits where you can have a conversation about your concerns and goals either in person or over the phone.