Plantarfasciitis – how to fix this persistent injury

Plantarfasciitis is a painful irritation of the band under the foot, just in front of the heel bone.

Classic plantarfasciitis is at its most painful when you first stand up after a period of resting. Basically it’ll hurt like hell when you first try to walk in the morning!

This condition has a gradual onset and often feels like it has no obvious reason why it started. But every Plantarfasciitis has a cause, a reason why the fascia overloaded and became symptomatic. It may be transient (one long day of hiking) or chronic (poor muscular control of the leg).

Special note: the commonly used term “Plantarfasciitis” is outdated. It’s now more correctly termed “Plantarfasciosis” or “Plantarfasciopathy” to reflect its non-inflammatory nature. But really, who cares? Whatever it’s called, you just want it fixed.

(Not sure of your diagnosis? Could it be a bone issue? Read more on other causes of heel pain).

Best way to ease heel pain from Plantarfasciitis

1. Footwear

Cushioned and supportive shoes are crucial to the long term fix. Support on its own can still aggravate some of the aspects of PF, so hard orthotics or Birkenstock sandals may make the symptoms worse.

Look for a combination of soft and supportive. The addition of a soft orthotic, such as the Formthotic range, to most well-structured shoes (ie. not Nike Free!) will do the trick.

2. Modified training

Avoid situations that cause rapid or excessive stretch on the plantarfascia. These include walking on sand or soft grass, walking up steep hills or fast walking.

The pain often feels like it “loosens up” with these types of walking but it will only worsen the next day.

Aim for regular walks in comfortable shoes, at a steady pace, on flat firm ground.

3. Fix the cause

Spend the time to find the cause. Not only can this prevent future episodes but it’ll speed up your recovery from this episode.

The cause you’re looking for depends on the presentation.

Sudden onset of plantarfasciitis is often associated with a single event of overload, such as a long day of hiking on poor footwear choices.

More gradual presentation over a number of days or weeks is more typical of a biomechanical cause, such as muscle fatigue or poor ankle range of motion.

Then there’s the pain on one side vs both sides. If you only have pain in one foot, you have a one-sided cause. It can’t be a big day of hiking or bad shoes – they’d affect both feet.

If it’s in both feet, you’re looking for something affecting both sides equally. Bad shoes or excessive weight gain (such as in pregnancy) are examples.

Don’t fall for these Plantarfasciitis myths!

Rolling your foot on a ball or bottle is a terrible idea. It compresses and aggravates irritated soft tissues and despite very short term relief, usually makes the episode last longer.

Toe scrunching exercises are also counterproductive. They encourage compensatory muscle patterns and delay the return of normal muscular stability of the foot and ankle.

Anti inflammatory meds are not advised. They only mask the symptoms while the condition gets worse.

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