Plantar fascia is the layer of tissue that covers the muscles, tendons and ligaments from your heel to the ball of your foot. When extra stress is placed on this tissue, or if it is stretched in an irregular manner, the plantar fascia can become inflamed and cause pain in your feet. Luckily, plantar fasciitis does not have to become a chronic condition and can be managed with extra care and specific exercises.
People who have flat feet, high arches, and those who have feet that roll inward when walking (over-pronation), are at greater risk of developing plantar fasciitis than those with healthy functioning feet.
Instability in your feet can extend upwards affecting the ankles, knees, hips, lower back and neck. Tight Achilles tendons may limit flexing your foot freely, putting undue strain on the plantar fascia. Short and tight calf muscles, standing for long periods of time, particularly in improper footwear, and being overweight, may also cause undue strain in the soles of your feet.
The plantar fascia itself should be stretched gently on a regular basis to control inflammation and pain. Since these tendons often tighten overnight, you may experience sharp pain in the soles of your feet first thing in the morning when you step out of bed and take a few steps.
Following are some simple exercises you can do to help treat plantar fasciitis:
- Sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, loop a towel or belt around the ball of your foot and pull back slowly until you feel a good pull in your calf muscle. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. Repeat with the other leg.
- Stand facing a wall at about arm’s length and lunge forward with one leg while keeping the other behind you with the heel flat on the floor. You should feel the stretch in the calf muscle. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch to the other leg. Repeat the sequence a few times a day.
- To stretch the plantar fascia, use a wall or stair to press the bottom your toes against so that they extend upward, while the ball of your foot remains touching the floor. Hold for 45-60 seconds on each foot and repeat twice. Do this twice a day.
- Massaging the plantar fascia by rolling your foot slowly back and forth over a rolling pin or drink can for a few minutes each day can also help to relieve plantar fasciitis.
- Since plantar fasciitis is a condition of stretching the ligaments, any high impact repetitive movements should be avoided while nursing the condition back to health. Unfortunately for some this means no running or jogging.
Finally proper diagnosis is half the cure. Computer gait scan technology uses thousands of sensors on a footplate to measure how you distribute your weight while standing and walking. The data can help diagnose if you need custom orthotic supports to correct your foot problems. Orthotics work like braces on teeth, they support and realign the foot bones so as to improve how you stand and walk. Semi-rigid supports also serve to exercise your foot muscles so they don’t become lazy over time.
For those interested in getting to the root cause of your symptoms, mention this article and receive a free computer gait scan evaluation ($50 savings!) Most insurance companies have coverage for custom orthotic therapy.