I’ve run into an amazing number of people recently suffering from plantar fasciitis (one of those Greek phrases meaning inflammation of the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot).
I’ve had this condition and most people I know have either struggled with it themselves or are closely related to someone who has. It can take a year to fully subside and, once you’ve experienced it, you’re more susceptible to future occurrences. Plantar Fasciitis has the signature symptom of morning foot pain — the first couple of steps from the bed to the bathroom can be excruciating!
Plantar fasciitis (PF) is common in women who wear high heels (and I suppose men who wear high heels as well), those who have excessively tight calf muscles, and runners — especially if your feet tend to rotate inward. There is a band of tissue on the bottom of each foot that connects your heel to your toes, and its purpose is to support the arch of your foot. This arch is what gives our feet bounce—the spring in our step and a proper gait.
Anyone who has been walking around with foot pain is probably also feeling aches and pains in other places as well. Tight calf muscles, unhappy knees, hips and back are common with problems in the feet. It should be no surprise that our bodies are fully connected so, if our feet are functioning poorly, the whole body often suffers. When the tissue on the bottom of the feet is strained repeatedly, small tears can occur. The resulting inflammation will impact the enjoyment of hiking, running and even just walking.
The recommended treatment for PF is rest, ice (freeze a water bottle, roll it on the bottom of your foot) and gentle stretching of the foot and calf. If the pain doesn’t let up, cortisone shots are sometimes used. For intractable PF, surgery may be a last resort.
For most people, resting and icing eventually cures the problem but — it’s hard to rest your feet! Most of us we them all day, everyday.
At the very least, avoid standing or walking on hard surfaces for long periods of time, give running and jumping a break, and wear shoes that support your aches so the tissue on the bottoms of your feet don’t have to do that work. This protocol ought to allow you a more normal walking pattern,; so the negative impact on the rest of your body is minimal.
Once you have fully recovered from PF, there are some things you can do to prevent further flare-ups. When you wear shoes, depending upon the shoe, it is similar to wearing a knee or back brace. These devices serve to protect parts of our body from instability, the downside of these kinds of props is they do the job that the muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue should be doing. When the body’s tissues don’t have to perform their job they get lax, lose their tone and ability to support the body on their own. Shoes also function to protect us from our environment and going barefoot is just not an option for most of us.
To strengthen and retrain your feet to be supportive and pain-free, here are a few suggestions:
- When it’s safe to do so, go barefoot.
- Check your alignment. The easiest way to do this is take a look at an old pair of shoes and examine the wear pattern. Feet that roll inward (collapsed arch) or outward while walking may put undo stress on the plantar fascia.
- Avoid shoes that squish the toes as well as high heels . Some foot experts say a heel of any height is bad for the feet, as well as alignment in general.
- Stretch your calves and hamstrings daily. A regular yoga practice will stretch your feet and legs as well as the rest of your body, preventing PF and a host of other ailments.
- Stretch the top part of your foot as well as the bottom: http://www.arianayoga.com/plantar-fasciitis-doctor-wont-tell/
- Roll a tennis ball on the bottoms of your feet to sooth and relax that plantar fascia.
- If overweight, lose weight. Less downward pressure on the arch will allow it to function properly.
Healing your feet will impact your whole body, so think about giving them the same attention you would a grandchild — spoil them, nurture them and, in return, they will adore you for your lifetime!
Virginia Eaton is a health and fitness coach helping people reorganize priorities.