Plantar Fasciitis. It’s super painful, and not just to spell. What is it? Well, it’s a pain in the bottom of the foot involving the plantar fascia, a very tough, tight layer of connective tissue running along the foot from the base of the Achille’s Tendon to the front of the foot (it connects the heel bone to the toes). It can get extremely tight and can have knots in it from injury or an altered gait (or both) that make even light walking unbearably painful. The pain typically is focused in the heel, but runs down into the instep or even the entire underside of the foot. An average of 3 million Americans get it every year, so it’s super common.
The Mayo Clinic explains it as follows:
Plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis) is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.
Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position.
Plantar fasciitis is particularly common in runners. In addition, people who are overweight and those who wear shoes with inadequate support are at risk of plantar fasciitis.
The answer to deal with it? Don’t do anything. Just rest.
At least, that’s what was historically recommended. But that’s not the right answer. The real answer is to take an active approach to managing it, with a forceful massage regime being the cornerstone treatment. There are products out there like the Strassburg Sock or foot sleeves like this one from Feetures! (yes, their name has an exclamation mark in it – I’m not just linking to them with extreme excitement). While products like this help, the most helpful thing you can do is to massage the bottom of your foot.[tweet_box design=”box_12_at” author=”newbodi”]Take an #active role in your #recovery. Do something to be #better.[/tweet_box]
So how best to do that? You can use your fingers and really get in there. If you don’t have fingers, or want to use something else, you can use a ball. The best are simple lacrosse balls or something like FootRubz (I have like 6 of these). The nice thing about the ball solution is that you can use it while you do something else – eat, work at a desk, watch TV – without needing to use your hands or draw attention to what you’re doing like you would if you were hand-massaging your foot.
Another key thing to do is to work on eccentric movement by doing calf raises. To do this, go to a staircase, and get up on the first steps so that your foot is cantilevered off the step from just behind the ball of your foot back. Raise yourself up – you can do this with your pain-free leg. Then slowly lower yourself back down to the point that your heel is just past being even with the step. The key is to be slow and controlled here. This downward movement involves the lengthening of the muscles in the bottom of your foot, which is what eccentric movement is. It’s easiest to think of with a bicep curl – when you bring your hand up to lift the weight and make your bicep big, you’re contracting it in the concentric movement. Then as you lower the weight, your bicep fights the weight to control it as it goes down, and the muscle lengthens (and looks smaller) in the eccentric movement. Eccentric movements are great for tendons that are injured or in pain, which is why these calf raises (really, the calf lowering move) should be part of a plantar fasciitis attack plan.
I put a call out to my fellow FitFluential ambassadors, and got reminded of a solution I had heard before by Smitha Barki from FauxRunner. Take a bottle of water (like a half liter size) and freeze it. Then roll your foot over the bottle to massage it and get some pain relief from the ice.
Rest is still a good idea, but not in the sense of doing nothing. Rest in the sense of not doing a ton of high-intensity, long-duration physical activity of the likes that tend to make your foot hurt more. For example, running made my pain worse, while riding my bike didn’t hurt at all. So what did I do? I took a few days off running and substituted in cycling. So I was resting my body from that which made the pain worse but didn’t purely rest my body.
So, plantar fasciitis is painful, common, and can literally stop you in your tracks. But it doesn’t have to be cause for bed rest or total immobility. Take an active approach to getting better and you’ll actually have less pain and get over the injury faster than if you just rested. Taking an active approach to injury management is a key component when you enlighten.your.body.