Plantar fasciitis, one of the most common causes of foot and heel pain, is a painful burning feeling in the heel or sole of the foot that occurs upon walking, usually within the first steps, or when standing for a long period of time. This malady is a result of the weakening of the plantar fascia, a flat band of connective tissue between the heel and big toe, due to repetitive stress of weight-bearing activities such as walking and running. You can reduce pain and discomfort from this condition by adjusting footwear, decreasing body weight, practicing stabilizing exercises, and stretching the calf, foot, and ankle.
An estimated two million Americans suffer from plantar fasciitis, and 10 percent of the population will be affected by this condition over the course of their lives. Plantar fasciitis generally affects men and women between the ages of 40 and 60, although it can occur in children and teens, especially athletes. Women, people who live a sedentary lifestyle, and “weekend warriors”—people who dramatically increase their physical activities on the weekends, are most likely to develop plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation and deterioration of the plantar fascia, a flat band of connective tissue that crosses the bottom of the foot supporting the arch and connects the big toe to the heel. This protective and shock-absorbing tissue becomes inflamed as a result of tight calf muscles, obesity, running, or a sudden increase in high-impact activities. When strained, the plantar fascia weakens, swells, and becomes irritated, causing pain in the heel or bottom of the foot when standing or walking.
Patients with plantar fasciitis describe the pain in their heel or bottom of the foot as “stabbing,” “searing,” and/or “burning.” The pain is most acute when first getting out of bed in the morning or when standing up after being off the feet for a long period of time. The pain, generally accompanied by stiffness, normally decreases after a few steps, although sometimes it does not entirely go away and can linger while you walk. Further, the pain can return after long periods of standing. The pain usually occurs in one foot, although it can be in both feet.
Pain that occurs at night and/or is located behind the heel are possible indicators of arthritis, heel bursitis, or tarsal tunnel syndrome.
The plantar fascia, a thick band of connective tissue that spans the bottom of your foot from your heel to your big toe, acts as a protective and shock-absorbing shield for the feet and thus, the entire body. With too much or repeated impact or pressure, the tissue can tear, creating small micro-tears in the tissue, straining this protective sheath and causing some degree of inflammation and swelling. The tears in the tissue cause the pain. These tears are small in magnitude and can heal quickly, but if tears continue upon repeated impact and pressure, pain will persist.
Although “-itis” usually indicates an inflammation, studies of plantar fasciitis have shown that there is very little inflammation present. This explains why the anti-inflammatories prescribed for the condition have little to no effect on the healing process. Instead, it has been found that the fascia is degraded due to repetitive wear and tear, and, as a result, has become stressed and weakened.
Weak muscles in the foot and ankle, and higher up in the knee and hip, can cause too much pressure on the sole of the foot, causing the tissue to weaken due to repetitive stress—this results in plantar fasciitis. More specifically, excessive pronation (rolling inward) of the feet, high arches or flat fleet, and walking, standing, or running for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces and while wearing ill-fitting or worn-out shoes, are causes of the condition.
Studies have shown that up to 70 percent of people with plantar fasciitis are obese (almost twice the rate of obesity in the general American population, which is 36 percent). Overweight individuals and pregnant women, both of whom carry excessive weight on their feet when standing, are susceptible to tightness in the Achilles tendon and calf muscle, making them prime targets for plantar fasciitis.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a factor in developing plantar fasciitis. Excessive pressure places stress on the plantar fascia, which ultimately leads to pain. Maintaining a healthy weight will reduce excess pressure on the feet while standing, walking, or running.
- Wear proper footwear. The best way to fix and prevent plantar fasciitis is to wear appropriate footwear. If you have, for example, an arch that is too big or too small, it is important that you get sneakers and/or insoles that are customized specifically for your feet. This will ensure the feet are properly supported and the plantar fascia is not overly strained.
- Stay in shape. When the muscles in the feet and legs are not proportionately stretched and strengthened, the risk of developing plantar fasciitis increases. Focus on strengthening and stretching the muscles in the feet, legs, and body as a whole. This allows you to utilize the strength of the feet to support the plantar fascia and builds the foundation for optimal foot alignment.
1. Ground the Feet. If your weight is disproportionately shifted toward the outer or inner part of the foot, your risk for developing plantar fasciitis increases. Grounding the feet ensure equal distribution of weight on each foot, essentially removing the potential for favoritism toward the inside or outside of the foot and ensuring optimal foot and ankle alignment. To Ground the Feet, first create equal pressure on the left and right foot. Then, imagine points at the base of your big toes, pinky toes, outer heels, and inner heels. Pull the toe stems long and push all four points of the soles into the ground. In everyday life, you can Ground the Feet when you stand in line at the grocery store, brush your teeth, or sit at your desk at work. No matter if you’re seated or standing, connect to the ground beneath you by simply pressurizing through the four points of the soles (with equal weight on both feet) and reach long through the toes.
2. Support the Knees. When dealing with any injury in the body, it helps to take a look at the surrounding joints. Grounding the Feet ensures the feet and ankles are in the proper alignment. So the next nearest joint that you need to address is the knee. An unsupported knee typically means improper alignment with the rest of the leg. This misalignment in the knee and leg can trickle down to the feet. Even if the feet are grounded, if the knee is unstable, there may still be excess pressure on the plantar fascia. To Support the Knees, imagine a point at the center of each kneecap. Standing naturally, observe whether these points face directly forward or off to the side. Now, adjust the feet so you are standing parallel, and align the kneecap directly forward—this will be roughly in line with your middle toe. As you bend your knees, challenge yourself to keep the knees stacked directly above the ankles with the center of the kneecaps forward. In everyday life, you can Support the Knees while climbing the stairs. Maintain equal pressure on the base of the big toes and the base of the pinky toes. As you climb the stairs, face the hips directly forward, and maintain the alignment of the knees directly over the ankles.
3. Activate the Legs. You can further reinforce the grounding of the feet and supporting of the knees by activating the legs. This ensures the leg muscles are an active part of everything you do. When you call on the muscles of the legs, the pressure on the feet is reduced. The muscles basically “pull up” the weight of the body away from the feet. To Activate the Legs, first imagine a line connecting the base of the big toe, the inner ankle bone, the inner knee, and the inner thigh. This is your inner leg line. Now draw a line connecting the base of the pinky toe, the outer ankle bone, the outer knee, and the outer hip. This is your outer leg line. Pressurizing the bases of the big toe and the pinky toe engages the muscles along these lines. In everyday life, you can Activate the Legs while cooking dinner. Whether you’re chopping vegetables, making a stir-fry, or heating up leftovers in the microwave, equalize pressure on the bases of the big toes and pinky toes to equally activate the right and left leg.
Massage the feet. Gentle massages of the toes and soles of the feet can help relieve pressure on the bottom of the foot. When we’re standing, the feet take on our entire body weight. The plantar fascia acts as a shock absorber for all that weight. Using your hand, or a softball, gently massage the sole of the foot, all the way from the bases of the toes to the heel. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes each day to soften the tough connective tissue that makes up the plantar fascia and relieve some of the pain.
1.Take a water bottle and freeze it.
2. Put it under your foot and roll it back and forth for 10 minutes.
3. Repeat 3 times a day, with at least 45 minutes in between applications.