What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a very common condition affecting the feet. It is due to inflammation of the ‘fascia’ which is the band of tissue that runs along the sole of your feet. (The Myofascial Release treatment I do (MFR) works specifically on this fascia which is found throughout the body).
It usually begins with severe pain in the heels, (usually people describe this as ‘stabbing’ or ‘sharp and throbbing’). Over time this can spread to the whole foot.
How do you know if you have Plantar Fasciitis?
- It is worse in the mornings, people often struggle to walk when they first get up.
- Feet and ankles will be very stiff
- The pain is specifically in the heel (often just along from it) and extends along the foot.
- It generally eases with gentle movement but will worsen with too much standing or walking.
There are other problems that can cause pains in the feet so if your pain is constant, or in a different part of the foot it probably isn’t PF and will need a different treatment.
Plantar Fasciitis is very common, especially in the 40-60 age group, and also in runners or people who stand a lot. I am in several running groups on Facebook and it comes up a lot in conversations. As with a lot of things on social media, there are many different ‘helpful’ suggestions bandied about, but what the non-professional often misses is that the main source of the problem is not the feet, but the calves and legs as a whole. So we need to look at working on the leg AND feet when it comes to easing the problem.
Obviously waking up with stiff, sore, feet and struggling to walk is not a very nice way to wake up! So, what can you do about it?
The GOOD news is that it will usually go away, the BAD news is that it will take several months or longer to ease on its own. Fascia tissue is one of the slower healers of the body. The other GOOD news is that you can do things to help yourself, and also seek help from professionals.
Firstly – What YOU Can Do.
Ok, so you have the sore feet, and you are no doubt feeling pretty fed up. It is probably impacting on your activities and you want to get your old, happy feet back as soon as possible.
Well, luckily there are several things that the sufferer can do for themselves to ease this problem.
1. Stretch – you need to stretch the legs, specifically the calves, and also the feet. Sign up below to get a comprehensive stretching regime for shins, calves, and feet. This needs to be done twice a day. Other things you can focus on stretching are the big toe, which is often stiff. You can do this with your hand, just pushing the toe forward. Or kneeling and having the feet flat underneath will stretch the shins and toes. Some people have very tight tendons from the shins and can have a slightly upturned big toe so stretching this downwards can really help. Yoga can help too, especially positions that involve sitting back on the feet like ‘childs pose’.
2. Roll your feet on a ball (tennis, golf, dog toys or spikey ‘physio’ ones all work). Or keep a can in the fridge, or freeze a paper cup with water and roll your feet on that. The combination of rolling and cold will ease the tightness and inflammation in the feet.
3. Think about your shoes, do they support your feet? Are you standing a lot? Plantar used to be called ‘policeman’s feet’ when police were on the beat all day. So if you have a standing job, make sure your shoes support you. Also that you go up on your toes and don’t stand still, walk about, rise up on to your toes, roll back on your heels. Generally, keep the feet and legs as active as possible.
Runners also need to think about their shoes, it’s best to get them fitted, and make sure they are appropriate for terrain/distance. Especially if you are going to increase distances. What worked for those park runs won’t work for the half or full marathon. I know they can seem expensive, but they are the main piece of kit you should spend money on getting a proper fit.
4. If you have flat feet then this can also be a factor so you might need more supportive shoes or insoles. You can also try to strengthen the arch with the old ‘pick up a pencil with your toes’ exercise, or scrunching a towel up with your feet. Or try standing on to your toes while you brush your teeth.
Professional Help is Also Available
Those are the things you can do for yourself. But to really shift plantar fasciitis you will probably need to seek some professional advice. I treat folk with it all the time. I give them stretches and the suggestions above, and then I work into their calves and legs. Usually finding all kinds of deep muscle tightness that they were unaware of. Once we can get those muscles softened, then the stretches at home will also work better.
So find a local sports/remedial massage therapist – if you are in Fife/Edinburgh get in touch with me here
You might also want to see a podiatrist for advice on insoles and shoes, or other things they can do for you such as dealing with other foot issues that might play a part in the problem.
To avoid it in the first place, or to keep it from coming back, you need to keep up the exercises.
Runners need to stretch after their runs, and really make sure they are actually stretching the right muscles. Too many people I see in my clinic, simply go through the motions of stretching, they are not actually achieving what they think they are.
You also might want to consider a yoga class, something like Ashtanga that builds strength and flexibility. Or you can also do yoga at home, there are various routines specifically for runners out there on apps or YouTube channels.
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