What is plantar fascitis?
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the sheath of tissue on the bottom of the foot. It causes sharp foot and heel pain, usually worst when you first get out of bed in the morning. It feels like walking on needles and can be very debilitating.
There is conflicting information about how to treat plantar fasciitis because different approaches work for different people. However, I personally believe that a combination of regular stretching (calf stretches for at least 3 sets of 1 minute, 4 times a day) and avoiding exercise that exacerbates the issue (say you’re a runner – you’d need to STOP running completely and switch to biking or swimming until the pain is 100% gone) is the way to go.
I don’t think orthotics help much, though arch support may be helpful for those with very flat feet. It’s really important to stretch frequently. If you just stretch once a day it’s not enough. Most people fail stretching interventions because they don’t do it daily and frequently enough. Seeing a physical therapist may also be helpful. Some people like to roll a tennis ball on the bottom of their foot as part of their stretching routine – but I’ve found that good old fashioned calf stretches are the best (check out the link above for instructions on how to stretch the calves).
Other things to try:
- Boots (night splints) that keep your ankles at 90 degrees while you’re sleeping (this provides a gentle stretch overnight). Some people find the boots annoying, restricting their movement and preventing sleep.
- Anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen and naproxen – always take as directed by the drug facts label.
- Steroid injections (in severe cases) to reduce inflammation at the heel insertion point of the fascia.
- Avoid repetitive stress (from high impact activities such as running, CrossFit, aerobics) to the fascia until the pain is 100% gone. Then slowly reintroduce activities while continuing your stretching regimen.
- Weight loss can help to reduce the stress on the feet, if weight is an issue.
The good news is that most cases of plantar fasciitis resolve with time. It can come back, though, so maintaining a daily stretching regimen is probably your best bet for keeping this pain away!
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Dr. Val Jones MD – Health Tip Content Editor
Reviewed and Approved by Charles W. Smith MD, Medical Director on 8-2-2017
Image: ©Shutterstock / catinsyrup