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Walking Away from Plantar Fasciitis: Expert Advice for Pain-Free Steps

What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It is the inflammation of a thick band of tissue (plantar fascia) that runs across the bottom of each foot and connects the heel bone to the toes. It plays a crucial role in supporting the arch of your foot and absorbing shock during walking and running. Your fascia also supports the muscles of your foot. When it’s overly stretched, you can get tiny tears on its surface. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia becomes inflamed and irritated, leading to pain and discomfort in the heel and bottom of the foot.

plantar fasciitis infographic

What triggers plantar fasciitis?

It can be caused by wearing poor-fitting shoes, your personal foot structure, overuse and the types of walking surfaces you frequent.

Longstanding tension on the plantar fascia insertion (the spot where the plantar fascia attaches) can result in a heel spur although heel spurs do not usually cause pain. Since heel bone spurs are not the cause of plantar fasciitis, plantar fasciitis pain can be treated without removing the spur.

In most cases, plantar fasciitis develops without a specific, identifiable reason. However, there are many factors that can make you more prone to the condition, or other factors that put you at a greater risk of plantar fasciitis:

  • If you are female
  • Are 40 to 60 years old
  • Are obese
  • Have flat feet or high arches
  • Have tight Achilles tendons, “heel cords”, or tight calf muscles
  • Have an unusual gait or foot position
  • Wear high-heeled shoes
  • Spend many hours standing on hard surfaces each day (especially among nurses, factory workers, and teachers)
  • Wear worn-out, ill-fitted shoes with thin soles
  • Are participating in a new activity or have increased your activity
  • Participate in repetitive high impact activity (running/dancing/sports)

What are symptoms of plantar fasciitis?

The primary symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp, stabbing pain in the bottom of the heel that radiates under the foot. The pain is usually most severe with the first few steps in the morning or after periods of inactivity but may also worsen after prolonged standing or physical activity. The foot may feel stiff and tense, especially after rest or inactivity and the bottom of the foot may be tender to touch, especially near the heel.

Should I see a doctor?

If you experience persistent or severe foot pain, it's important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and for a personalized treatment plan. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and check your feet to see where you’re having pain and to rule out insertional Achilles tendinitis, calcaneal (heel) stress or plantar nerve entrapment. They sometimes want you to have imaging tests to make sure bone fractures or arthritis isn’t causing your problem. These tests include X-rays or an MRI.

What is the best way to treat plantar fasciitis?

Treating plantar fasciitis involves taking some essentials actions:

  • Allow the foot to rest and heal.
  • Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain.
  • Reduce weight-bearing activities.
  • Apply ice to the affected area to help reduce inflammation and pain. Use a cloth or towel to wrap an ice pack and apply it to the heel for 15-20 minutes several times a day.
  • Do gentle stretching exercises for the calf muscles to help improve flexibility and reduce tension. Plantar fasciitis is aggravated by tight muscles in your feet and calves. Stretching your calves and plantar fascia is the most effective way to relieve the pain that comes with this condition.
  • Apply shoe inserts or orthotic devices to provide support and cushioning to the foot, reducing strain on the plantar fascia.
  • Wear shoes with good arch support and cushioning.
  • Avoid walking barefoot, especially on hard surfaces.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help manage pain and inflammation.

In cases where conservative treatments do not provide relief, more advanced treatments may be considered. These may include corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation, extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) to stimulate healing, or physical therapy.

Does rolling a ball under your foot help plantar fasciitis?

man rolling a tennis ball under foot

You can get pain relief for plantar fasciitis through stretches and exercises that strengthen this area of the foot. By loosening the plantar fascia ligament, you can help prevent further stress and inflammation that causes foot pain. Here are three exercises that will help strengthen your foot ligaments and muscles.

One of the best stretches for plantar fasciitis is the gastrocnemius stretch. This stretch is very simple and can be done anywhere with a wall to support you.

  • Step 1: Stand facing the wall, place your hands on it, and stretch your affected leg back. Both of your feet should be planted on the ground facing the wall. Your unaffected leg should be bent at the knee.
  • Step 2: Lean toward the wall so that you feel a stretch in the calf muscle of your back leg.
  • Step 3: Hold this pose for 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat it six times.

Another excellent exercise is toe curls with a towel.

  • Step 1: Put a small towel on the floor and sit in a chair so that your feet are over the towel.
  • Step 2: Using your affected foot, scrunch your toes onto the towel and try to pull it toward you.
  • Step 3: Relax your toes and let the towel go. Repeat this motion 10 times, once or twice daily.

The tennis ball roll is an exercise that will stretch out the plantar facia ligament. For this exercise, you’ll need a tennis ball or small ball of similar size or you can use a water bottle or other cylindrical object instead. You can do this stretch twice a day.

  • Step 1: Sit in a chair and place the ball under your affected foot.
  • Step 2: Roll the ball back and forth under the arch of your foot
  • Step 3: Continue rolling for three to five minutes.

Can wearing certain shoes help plantar fasciitis?

Wearing the right kind of shoes can significantly help in managing and preventing plantar fasciitis. Here are some points on how and why:

Proper Arch Support: Shoes with the right arch support can prevent excessive stress on the plantar fascia. This is particularly important for individuals with flat feet or overly high arches.

Cushioning

Shoes with adequate cushioning can help in absorbing shock and reducing pressure on the heel and foot, which is a major concern in plantar fasciitis.

Heel Support

Shoes that offer sturdy heel support can reduce strain on the plantar fascia. A slightly elevated heel can sometimes reduce tension on the tendon.

Roomy Toe Box

Footwear with a roomy toe box allows the toes to spread naturally, which can prevent additional stress on the foot.

Firm Sole

A firm sole can provide stability and prevent the foot from rolling inward, which can exacerbate plantar fasciitis symptoms.

Proper Fit

It is crucial to wear shoes that fit well. Shoes that are too tight or too loose can alter your gait, potentially worsening the condition.

In addition to wearing the right shoes, individuals with plantar fasciitis might also consider using orthotic inserts designed to offer additional support and cushioning. It is often beneficial to consult with a healthcare provider or a specialist to get personalized advice on the best footwear and orthotic options.

If you are lookingh for a great pair of dress shoes we recommend our Oxford Lisse Orthopedic Dress Shoes

Does plantar fasciitis ever go away?

Navigating through the persistent discomfort of plantar fasciitis can indeed feel like a long, winding road. It might seem never-ending, but I assure you, there's light at the end of the tunnel. While it doesn't happen overnight, with time and the right approach, you can certainly wave goodbye to the pain. It's a bit like nurturing a garden; with patience and the right care, blossoms eventually appear. Perhaps, it's time to invest in a pair of supportive shoes. And don't underestimate the value of expert advice; a session with a physical therapist could pave the golden path to recovery. Hold onto hope, because a smoother, pain-free path is within reach.

Can I do anything to prevent getting or having a recurrence of plantar fasciitis?

It's important to underscore that taking preventative steps is key to sidestepping a return bout with plantar fasciitis. Upholding the health of your feet, choosing the right footwear, and committing to routine stretches and strengthening exercises can substantially lower the chances of facing this condition again.

When it comes to overcoming plantar fasciitis, the outlook is generally quite encouraging. A majority find solace in non-invasive treatments, bypassing the need for any surgical steps. It should be noted, though, that the journey to recovery isn't a one-size-fits-all scenario. Each individual has their own pace, and with consistent rest, stretching, and supportive actions, you can expect to witness a marked improvement in just a matter of months.

For comprehensive insights into other foot issues, including causes, symptoms, and treatments, please click here.

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