When we introduced the couch to 5K program on how to run, the first thing I thought of was, “Is this going to flare up my plantar fasciitis again?”
Have you heard of plantar fasciitis before? It all starts at the plantar fascia — the tissue along the bottom of your foot that connects your heel bone to your toes. Sometimes certain activities can cause you heel pain resulting in inflammation of the plantar fascia, called plantar fasciitis. It’s very common and I see it a lot at work.
Are your first steps out of bed painful in the morning, but seem to improve throughout the day as you walk? Or does your heel pain worsen after you get done jogging?
Plantar fasciitis causes stabbing or burning pain that’s usually worse in the morning because the fascia tightens (contracts) overnight. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position.
What else you may feel…
- Heel pain after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position
- Heel pain after, but not usually during, exercise
- Mild swelling in your heel
- Sharp pain in the inside part of the bottom of your heel
How does it happen?
The plantar fascia is a shock-absorbing tissue that supports the arch in your foot. But, if tension on that tissue becomes too great, it can create small tears in the fascia. Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed.
- Physical activity overload. Plantar fasciitis is common in long-distance runners. Jogging, walking, or stair climbing can place too much stress on your heel bone and the soft tissue attached to it.
- Improper shoes. Shoes that are thin-soled, lack arch support, or the ability to absorb shock don’t protect your feet. If you regularly wear shoes with high heels, your Achilles tendon — which is attached to your heel — can contract and shorten, causing strain on the tissue around your heel.
- Arthritis. Some types of arthritis can cause inflammation in the tendons in the bottom of your foot, which may lead to plantar fasciitis.
- Your foot structure
Prevention is the key
Remember to be good to your feet, they are the only ones God gave you and they are to carry you for a lifetime. Here are a few good tips to help prevent plantar fasciitis:
- Wake up with a stretch. Before you get out of bed in the morning, stretch your calf muscles, arches, and Achilles tendons by reaching for your toes and gently flexing your foot. This helps reverse the tightening of the plantar fascia that occurs overnight.
- Maintain a healthy weight. This minimizes the stress on your plantar fascia.
- Choose supportive shoes. Avoid shoes with excessively low heels or high heels. Buy shoes with a low to moderate heel, good arch support, and shock absorbency. Never walk around barefoot, even in your own home.
- Start sports activities slowly. Warm up before starting any athletic activity or sport, and start new exercise programs slowly.
How to treat at home
- Apply ice. Roll your foot over a frozen water bottle for 15 to 20 minutes three or four times a day or after activity. Regular ice massage can help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Stretch. Simple exercises can stretch or strengthen your plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles. Place both hands on the wall and extend one foot back. Put the extended heel to the floor and stretch making sure not to bounce. Switch sides.
- Put your feet up. Stay off your feet for several days when the pain is severe.
- Don’t push it. Switch to lower impact exercises and lower the intensity. If you walk 2 miles, try only 1 until the pain subsides.
- Add arch supports to your shoes. Inexpensive over-the-counter arch supports take the tension off the plantar fascia and help absorb shock.
- Use over-the-counter ibuprofen. NSAIDs may ease pain and inflammation. Use as directed.
When to call the doctor
If you don’t see much progress after a few weeks of home treatment, see your family doctor or a foot doctor (podiatrist). If the pain worsens, even with home treatment, contact a doctor sooner.
So now you know how to keep you, and your feet, moving in a healthy way. Don’t ignore the symptoms and happy trails to you!