Plantar Fasciitis Prevention and Treatment

You'll need to minimize walking or running till the pain resolves

Intrinsic Stretch for Plantar Fascia
Intrinsic Stretch for Plantar Fascia. Wendy Bumgardner ©

If you have heel pain in the morning or after sitting a long time, then you probably have plantar fasciitis and/or heel spurs. Plantar fasciitis is the result of bone or nerve irritation from too much tension, inflammation, or scar tissue in the fascia—the ligament on the bottom of the foot. The pain often increases with more walking or standing. The pain is usually felt where the fascia attaches to the heel, but it can be felt over the entire bottom area of the foot.

A heel spur is a growth of bone from the heel that is often associated with plantar fasciitis pain. It can develop when you have plantar fasciitis for a long time and a calcium deposit forms where the plantar fascia attaches to your heel bone. Its treatment is the same as for plantar fasciitis.

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

Walkers and runners don't necessarily get plantar fasciitis more often than the general population, although long-distance running may increase the risk. The risk factors include lots of time walking or standing on hard surfaces, exercises that include jumping, inappropriate or worn-out footwear, being overweight, or putting an abnormal load on your feet. People with high arches, flat feet, and some types of gait may be more at risk. More women than men experience plantar fasciitis.

Walking or Running With Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis and heel spurs are debilitating conditions for people who enjoy walking or running for fitness. Walking through the pain can simply lead to more pain and months of recovery. Often you won't feel as much pain once the fascia has been stretched in the morning. However, it is recommended that you minimize walking and do not run for two weeks while using the self-treatment methods. Once the pain is resolved you can slowly build up your walking or running time.

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

Plantar fasciitis might last for just a few weeks, or it can become chronic. You should consult your doctor or a podiatrist if your foot pain is ongoing. They can recommend specific treatments for your condition. The usual treatment will be stretching and pain relief. In some cases, they will recommend shock wave therapy, cortisone injection, or surgery.

These are the commonly recommended treatments for plantar fasciitis:

  • 1. Rest: The foot needs time to heal without further irritation. You should walk and run less once you are feeling plantar fasciitis pain.
  • 2. Icing: Cold therapy is good for calming inflammation. Put a cold pack on your foot after walking or massage the foot with an ice bottle. Treat with cold for 15 minutes. 
  • 3. Self-Massage: This will help restore foot flexibility and gently mobilize the fascia. Before you get out of bed in the morning, or after sitting for a long period, use long massage strokes from the ball of the foot to the heel of the foot.
  • 4. Night Splint: When you sleep, your foot relaxes in a way that lets the plantar fascia tighten up. A night splint holds your foot in the position it would be in when you stand, so the plantar fascia remains stretched out. Then, stepping out of bed in the morning doesn't cause a sudden stretching of the fascia which might re-injure it. A study found that use of the night splint gives you a significantly shorter recovery time than just using stretching.
  • Custom Arch Supports and Orthotics: A podiatrist can prescribe an orthotic to relieve the pressure on your foot and to correct the gait problems that may have contributed to your condition.

Plantar Fasciitis Stretches

Stretches are used once you have gotten over the initial pain and swelling. Doing plantar fascia stretches and stretches for the Achilles tendon can help during rehabilitation and might lessen the risk of recurrence.

Plantar Fascia Intrinsic Stretch

  1. Sit in a chair and cross the sore foot over the other leg.
  2. Pull the toes back on your sore foot using the hand on the same side, stretching the plantar fascia on the sole of the foot.
  3. To check to see if you are getting enough of a stretch, rub your thumb left to right over the arch of the sore foot while you are pulling the toes back. If you have the right tension on it, it will feel firm.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds and release.
  5. Repeat 10 times for one set. Perform at least three sets per day.

Achilles and Arch Stretch

  1. Stand a few feet back from a wall.you lean forward against a wall.
  2. Bend one knee while stepping back with the leg with the sore foot and keeping that knee straight and heel on the ground.
  3. You will feel a stretch in the Achilles tendon and foot arch on the rear leg. If you don't, be sure that the knee is straight and the heel is on the ground.
  4. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat 20 times.

Stair Step Stretch

  1. Stand on a stair step facing upstairs with your heels off the back of the step.
  2. Gently lower your heels to give your arch a stretch.
  3. Hold to 10 seconds. Return to level. Repeat 10 times.
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