Plantar fasciitis is one of the most painful and debilitating injuries our feet can get. At best, it makes everyday activity painful; while at its worst, it can make walking an excruciating experience. But how do you know if you have it? And what are your options for treatment?

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of foot pain. It involves inflammation of the band of tissue on the bottom of the foot, known as the fascia. The fascia supports the arch of the foot, it also connects the heel to the toes. When the fascia is strained, weak, swollen or irritated; it becomes painful to walk or even stand.

Who Gets Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is more common among middle-aged people, but anyone can suffer from it. Those who spend a lot of time on their feet are most at risk. This can include anyone from athletes to cashiers to soldiers. In addition, those who are overweight or wear shoes without proper support are at an increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis.

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

The fascia of the foot is intended to act as a shock-absorber, supporting your arch as you walk or run, and allowing it to flex under the pressure. If the tension or stress on the fascia becomes too much, little tears develop. As the stress continues, the fascia becomes irritated and inflamed.

Tears can happen if your feet roll inward as you walk, or if you have high arches or flat feet. Standing for long periods of time on a hard surface can also cause the fascia to tear. As can a tight Achilles tendon or tight calf muscles.

Other, less known causes include a limited range of motion, lack of mobility or asymmetries in your pelvis/hips and lower spine. These asymmetries can lead to uneven force being placed on your pelvis which can greatly impact everything below that region, including the bottom of your feet. If this is not corrected, chronic foot pain can occur with minimal pain reduction due to treatment which is directedtoward symptom relief and NOT addressing the actual source of the problem which can be occurring at the pelvis!

Other risk factors include: age, certain types of exercises (long-distance running, jumping, ballet, etc), the physical construction of the foot, and the way weight is distributed when walking.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis typically causes a stabbing pain on the bottom of your foot when you walk. This pain is usually worst when you first get out of bed. It tends to get better as you start moving around, but then worsens again as you spend more time on your feet. It’s also interesting to note that most athletes don’t feel pain when exercising, but the pain will return once they are done.

What Can I Do to Alleviate the Pain?

It is possible to take pills or get shots that dull the pain, but the best way to treat plantar fasciitis is to go to the source. Because it’s caused by things like tight muscles, poor foot mechanics, and asymmetries in the hips; the pain can be alleviated by simple exercises. Let’s look at three of the best exercises you can do to help ease the pain of plantar fasciitis.

  1. Gastrocnemius Stretch – is a calf stretching exercise. To do it you stand facing the wall. Place the foot of the leg you want to stretch behind you with your foot flat on the floor. (The other leg will be under you with the knee bent slightly). Place your hands on the wall at shoulder level and slowly lean in until your face is next to the wall. Hold for 20-30 seconds and release. Repeat 10 times on each side.

2. Soleus Stretch – is similar to the first exercise, except you bend both knees. Stand facing the wall with one foot behind you. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder level (for balance) and bend both knees. Move your weight forward onto your toes while making sure that both heels are touching the ground. Hold for 20-30 seconds and release. Repeat 10 times on each side.

 3. Plantar Fascia Stretch – Stand arms length away from the wall. Place the toes of one foot on the wall (heel resting on the floor) and lean into it, gently stretching the foot. Hold 20-30 seconds and release. Repeat 10 times with each foot.

While these are three of the best exercises, there are other things you can do to relieve foot pain during the day. Try rolling the sole of your foot across a frozen bottle of water, or stretching your calves before getting out of bed in the morning by wrapping a towel around the bottom of your foot and gently pulling the ends towards you.

Having plantar fasciitis is not fun. If you have questions, or would like more information about how to treat your feet, give Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab a call. You can reach us at 570-208-2787 or by email at cawleyptfrank@gmail.com. Also visit our website or YouTube channel for more helpful tips.