You might love getting up early to prepare for the day by warming up and heading for a walk or run. But perhaps, lately, you've found that when you first roll out of bed, you feel a sharp pain in your foot, either at the front or center of the heel bone. Or maybe you notice an acute pain after standing, having sat for a long time, or right after exercise. It's easy to write off that sharp heel pain as overdoing it or sitting or standing too long.
But it might be plantar fasciitis.
Is there a way to prevent plantar fasciitis? And are there exercises that can help prevent it or help those already diagnosed with it? Let's find out together!
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a degenerative condition that affects the thick band of tissue, called a fascia, at the bottom of your foot that runs from your heel to your toes. Doctors once believed that heel spurs and bony growths were responsible for the pain. Now, evidence points to heel spurs being a symptom of plantar fasciitis, not the cause of it.
The fascia supports the muscles and the arch of your foot. You can risk getting tiny tears on its surface when stretched too far, which brings pain and inflammation.
How is it Diagnosed?
By checking for tender areas along your foot, your primary care physician can most likely tell if you have plantar fasciitis. This examination can often pinpoint what's causing the pain by its location. There is a high chance your Dr. won't do any imaging tests, but in rare cases, they might suggest an x-ray or MRI to rule out any other causes like pinched or compressed nerves or a stress fracture in your foot.
What Are The Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
• Foot pain on the bottom near your heel
• Foot pain is at its highest first thing in the morning after getting out of bed, standing and sitting for long periods, or after exercise, which fades after walking or moving for a little while
• Increase in foot pain after exercise, but not during
What You Can do to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
If you've never been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and would like to avoid it entirely, there are several things you can do to prevent it.
1. Always stretch.
The plantar fascia is a strong band of tissue that supports your arches and shock absorption for every step. Because of this burden, it's a hard-working part of our body and can develop tiny tears. The best way to keep the tissue healthy and prevent tearing is to incorporate a regimen of gentle stretching every morning, before exercise, or before and after standing or sitting for a long time.
2. Understand the risk factors for the condition.
Certain people may be more at risk for developing plantar fasciitis than others. These include:
• People who are severely obese
• People who suffer from flat or high arches
• Constantly tight calf muscles
• Work that consists of prolonged walking and standing
• Running on hard surfaces like sidewalks, treadmills, bike paths, or side streets
• Training errors such as over-training, an excessive or sudden increase in training, or forgetting to stretch
3. Find and wear the right shoes for your feet.
Suppose you determine that you're at higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis. In that case, it's crucial to make lifestyle changes to protect your feet; believe it or not, compression socks and new shoes can make a significant difference. Choosing appropriate footwear that provides your feet with proper support can decrease your risk of plantar fasciitis and change how you feel after a long day of standing, walking, or running. Look for a good pair of shoes that offer support for your arches with a firm and slightly flexible midsole with plenty of padding for your feet. You can even consider and add a removable insole to support your foot further.
4. Get some rest.
As plantar fasciitis comes from tiny tears in the tissue that develops through excessive wear and tear and can cause stabbing pain—heed the reminder from your body and give your feet a much-needed rest. Put your daily run or walk on hold, keep swelling down by taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, and allow your plantar fasciitis time to heal fully.
You might find it beneficial to do some ice and heat therapy, whichever feels the best to you, to reduce further inflammation.
Exercises to Help With and Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
Stretches to help with or prevent plantar fasciitis:
1. Strengthen arch muscles by placing a towel on the floor. Seated on the bed or a chair, grab the towel by curling your toes on it and pulling it toward you.
2. While seated in a comfortable position, reach down and grasp your toes. Gently begin to pull your toes toward you until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot. Make sure you don't remove so much that it hurts. You only want to feel gentle stretching.
3. Stand a foot or two facing a wall. Place your left and right hands flat on the wall. Step one foot forward with the other remaining flat on the floor and lean your hips forward until you feel a light stretch in your calf. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds, then switch legs. Avoid bounding and do one or two repetitions 2-3 times a day.
Are you interested in how compression therapy can also help with plantar fasciitis? Feel free to check out our informative blog: How Compression Socks Relieve Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis.
If you feel you are experiencing the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, the best treatment is preventative. Make an appointment to visit your primary care physician immediately for advice and treatment plans.
Suppose you have plantar fasciitis, have been following your Dr.s advice and stretching, ice and heat therapies, and are still experiencing the same pain or an increase in pain. In that case, it's essential to return to your Dr. so that they can take a closer look and come up with an alternative treatment plan that works for you.
We hope you've enjoyed learning along with us! Keep your feet fun and protected!