It is hard to get around using your feet…since they are exactly what you use to get around! This is what makes painful feet so difficult to live with! Pain caused by plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain and can range from mild discomfort to severe, irritating, stabbing pain with every step.
Where in the Body is Plantar Fascia and what causes it to Hurt?
The Plantar Fascia is a tough fibrous band of connective tissue that runs between your heel and your toes to support the arch of your foot. When using your feet, this structure acts like a shock absorber to absorb and distribute forces through your feet and into your legs, helping propel you forwards. Like most structures in the body, if your plantar fascia is exposed to overloading, repetitive stretching and/or over use; it may develop small tears and become strained, inflamed and irritated.
It is not surprising that this injury is extremely common in runners due to the large amount of stress placed on the heels during a good trot! Lots of hill training, sudden increase in mileage and/or speed, together with the average runner’s infamous neglect of a good post-run stretch are all factors which can contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis.
Waitrons, flight attendants and other people whose jobs require them to stand for extended periods; as well as people who carry extra weight, are all vulnerable to developing pain and inflammation of this foot fascia too! Another factor that can increase tension in the plantar fascia is what you choose to wear on your feet. High heels and shoes with poor arch support are the main culprits that can cause over-loading, leading to micro tearing and irritation.
The mechanics of your feet, ankles, knees and hips also play an important role in the development of this injury. Arches that are too high or flat will either over-stretch or strain the plantar fascia respectively; while faulty ankle, knee, hip and lumbar spine mechanics may affect your walking and running gait. This can lead to incorrect weight distribution across the feet, resulting in stress and strain on the plantar fascia.
Plantar fasciitis is usually felt in the morning as you take your first few steps after getting out of bed. It often starts gradually and is usually first felt as a sharp pain near your heel. As the day progresses the pain tends to decrease, and is usually reduced during exercise, although it may feel worse after. Sometimes people with plantar fasciitis experience pain during the toe off phase of walking or running, and as time goes by; the pain may spread from the heel to the include the arch of the foot.
What Can You Do?
The first step (no pun intended) would be to protect this injured area. Identify what seems to be the most likely cause of increased stress on your plantar fascia and take action to minimise this stress.
If you are a runner, it is best to put your feet up and reduce your trotting time. Opt for less strenuous activities such as swimming or cycling while you give your feet some time to heal. If you are not ready to stop running all together, reducing your mileage, run on softer surfaces and make sure you are wearing good supportive shoes to help reduce pressure on the plantar fascia and hopefully relieve some of the symptoms.
A slightly more tricky scenario is if your job requires you to be on your feet most of the day. In this case you may need to find creative ways to get your employer to allow you to engage in some tasks which allow you to be seated during the healing phase. Wearing soft, comfortable and supportive shoes will also help to relieve some of the tension build up in your feet.
Perhaps you are carrying some extra weight that is contributing to your plantar fasciitis? This could be a good motivator to commit yourself to working towards a healthier lifestyle and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. This will enable you to enjoy your body more with fewer complications.
Once you have identified the cause of strain on your plantar fasicia and have taken steps to relieve it, the next step is pain relief. Below are a few Self-Help techniques that help relieve pain and aid the healing process:
- Rolling your feet over a glass bottle of frozen water can help relieve pain and inflammation.
- Stretching your plantar fascia and calf muscles can help loosen your foot and relieve pressure on the fascia.
- Doing “Toe Yoga” by pulling laying a towel out on the floor and pulling it towards you with your toes and then flattening it out away from you can help strengthen the supportive intrinsic foot muscles.
- While your feet are healing, avoid walking bear foot and steer clear of flip flops!
- Anti Inflammatory medication can be used as a last resort if you are struggling to get pain relief with more conservative approaches.
It is always useful to visit a manual therapist who can assess your lower limb mechanics and make sure the joints are moving and working as they should. Certain strapping techniques may also be applied to relieve stress on the plantar fascia, and various soft tissue techniques may be used to aid the healing process.
Plantar fasciitis is an annoying injury that can take up to 3-4 months to heal completely. Ignoring the problem, however, may lead to chronic problems in your feet which may prevent you from taking part in the activities you know and love and drastically alter your quality of life.
Don’t let sore feet stop you from living the life you love! Do your best to treat your feet using the self-help tips mentioned above, and if after 3-4 weeks you do not notice any improvement, be sure to consult a professional! Some injuries really do take time. Be patient, keep putting one foot in front of the other and allow your body the time and rest it needs to heal.
Move Well. Live Well.