Plantar fasciitis is a condition which can cause heel pain.
It happens when the strong band of tissue on the sole of your foot (fascia) becomes irritated, after repetitive use or due to poor foot posture. Most commonly it occurs in one foot but is possible to have it in both feet at the same time.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
There is usually a gradual onset of pain, in a small amount of people there can be sudden damage to the fascia during physical activity.
The main symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:
Pain or tenderness in the heel or arch of the foot
Pain with initial steps in the morning or after a period of rest
Walking short distances may improve pain but longer distances may increase the symptoms again
Pain with sudden stretching of the sole of the foot. This could include going up on your toes or upstairs
Pain with prolonged standing or when wearing flat or unsupportive footwear
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Often there may be no obvious cause for the symptoms. However, certain risk factors can are associated such as:
Poor cushioning or poor arch support in your shoes.
Tightness in calf muscle.
Poor foot posture.
Being on your feet for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces.
If you are very active it can also be due to sudden stretching or overuse of the sole of the foot; such as when sprinting, jumping and landing on hard surfaces in basketball or after increasing running distance or intensity.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosis is usually made from the patient’s history and a simple examination without the need for further investigations.
How can I manage plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis usually fully resolves but it can in some cases take up to 12 months. You should avoid excessive activities that aggravate the pain and walking barefoot on hard surfaces.
Painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen or anti-inflammatory gels may be helpful to control the pain and allow you to continue exercising. Discuss this with your GP or Pharmacist.
Some people find ice effective in reducing their heel pain. Apply an icepack for 15 minutes regularly. Avoid applying ice directly to your skin, instead use a towel or have a fabric layer in between. Alternatively it can work well to use a frozen water bottle to roll underneath your foot.
Shoes with cushioned heels and good arch support are recommended. Various pads and insoles can be bought to cushion the heel or support your arch. These are recommended to be kept in the shoes for the majority of time.
Research has shown that exercise can help improve symptoms and stretches are the first line of treatment.
Relative rest is recommended to help reduce the pain but you should keep up gentle walking.
Further management options
If there is no response to the self-management information above within four to six weeks, seek further advice from your Physiotherapist or GP.
Exercise Advice for Plantar Fasciitis
A common tennis ball can serve as a useful tool for strengthening and rehabilitating your feet. Whether you have an injury, high arches, flat feet, bunions or calluses, tennis ball exercises for feet provide an easy, inexpensive self-maintenance tool for healthy feet.
Rolling the foot with a tennis ball provides a self-controlled massage and stretch for the bottom of the foot and plantar fascia. Start by sitting on a chair and placing the tennis ball under your foot. Gently apply as much pressure as you can tolerate to push the ball into the floor, rolling the ball back and forth from your toes to your heel. Roll the ball for 30 seconds and switch to the other foot. Perform the rolling massage tennis ball exercise two to four days per week to prevent foot-related injuries.
Maximizing the flexibility of the muscles and tendons within your foot, ankle and lower leg is essential for optimal foot strength and function. To improve your flexibility, perform a flexion stretch using the tennis ball placed against a wall. Start by placing the ball of one foot on top of the ball with your heel flat on the floor. Slowly lean your upper body into the wall to increase the stretch felt in the foot, ankle and lower leg. Hold the stretch for three slow breaths and switch feet.
Spot pressure exercises simply focus on any adhesions within the muscles of the bottom of the foot. Place the tennis ball under the ball of your foot and firmly press your foot into the ball for 10 seconds in different locations. Start by focusing on three spots near the base of your toes, gradually working the ball towards your heel.
The standing massage exercise is an advanced exercise derived from the rolling massage. You can apply more pressure to increase the intensity of the exercise by applying more bodyweight into the ball. Similar to the rolling massage, place the tennis ball under one foot while standing, steadying yourself against a wall. Apply as much pressure as you can tolerate. Roll the ball back and forth from your toes to heel for 30 seconds and switch feet.
Tennis balls are available at all your Jen Benson Pilates classes so that you can incorporate these easy stretches and massage techniques as you feel necessary before a class.