Do you have a sharp pain in your heel when you first get out of bed in the morning? If so, you might be suffering from a common runners’ injury known as plantar fasciitis.
The injury might be common but the pain can be severe. You might be wondering what you can do for plantar fasciitis. The good news is that there are quite a few things you can to alleviate the pain and speed the healing process so you can get back to working out again but you have to be patient.
Understanding Plantar Fasciitis
The first thing you need to do is understand what plantar fasciitis is and what causes it. Many runners and triathletes experience it, but if you don’t know where the issue started, it’s hard to know what to do about it. This is exactly where I was when it hit me hard training for my triathlons and just destroyed my pre-season training. Man was I pissed!
So, simply stated, plantar fasciitis is an irritation of the plantar fascia, a bundle of tissue and ligaments that connect the heel to the toes. The plantar fascia is what supports the arch of your foot.
Simply put if you are doing something repeatedly that is straining the ligaments that support your arches and creating small tears, you will end up causing major pain and swelling.
A number of things can cause plantar fasciitis, including:
- Flat feet or your feet roll inward when you walk
- Long periods of time spent standing on hard surfaces
- Your shoes just suck
- Really tight calve muscles
- Tight Achilles tendon
- Repetitive stress caused by running on hard surfaces
Runners most often get plantar fasciitis for the last reason. The process of running pavement – or even on a treadmill – can cause the fascia to tear. The result is inflammation, tightness, and pain. The pain is often at its worst first thing in the morning because the fascia tightens up during the night.Fortunately, plantar fasciitis is treatable.
What you can do for plantar fasciitis.
Icing the Foot
The first thing you can do to alleviate plantar fasciitis pain is to ice the affected foot. You can do it by sitting down and applying a bundle of ice to the heel and arch of the foot. Here are some things to keep in mind while icing your foot:
- Never apply ice directly to the skin. Instead, wrap it in a towel or plastic bag.
- As an alternative, consider using a bag of frozen peas or corn or a store-bought ice pack.
- Apply ice for no more than 20 minutes at a time twice a day.
- Remove ice if your foot starts to lose sensation or feel pins and needles in your feet.
It is best not to ice your feet first thing in the morning. Wait until your feet have had a chance to warm up before applying ice to them. This is because the muscles and tendons actually tighten up over night when you are sleeping. So you actually want to get your feet warmed up by walking on it and doing stretches to help lengthen the affected feet tendons.
Stretch Your Feet and Calves
Since the pain of plantar fasciitis is caused by tightness in the fascia, stretching your feet and calves can help relieve the pain.
Here are some quick stretches you can do to ease your pain:
- Place your hands flat against the wall and do a calf stretch by bending your front knee and stretching your rear leg out behind you.
- Hold your foot and pull your toes up and back toward your leg. You can massage your foot at the same time you stretch it.
- Use a towel for leverage and stretch your feet and calves at the same time.
- When you first get up in the morning, flex and bend your feet ten times before getting out of bed. It will help warm your feet and stretch the plantar fascia to reduce the chance that you will experience serious pain.
- Stand on a step and raise up and down on your toes. Push yourself up onto your toes and then slowly lower yourself until the backs of your heels sit below the edge of the step.
- Place a tennis ball under the arch of your foot and gently apply pressure while rolling the ball back and forth.
These stretches can help to restore flexibility to the fascia and relieve the pain associated with plantar fasciitis. You should do them in sets of 10-15 once a day to start. Eventually, you can work up to two sets per day.
Ice and Stretch
One of the best treatments for plantar fasciitis is a combination of icing and stretching. To use this method, freeze a bottle of water. Then follow these steps:
- Remove your shoes and socks.
- Place the frozen water bottle on the floor.
- Place your foot on top of the water bottle so that the arch is over the rounded part of the bottle and the top and bottom of the bottle stick out on either side of your foot.
- Apply gentle pressure and roll the bottle with your foot.
The combination of cold with gentle stretching simultaneously reduces inflammation, stretches the fascia, and alleviates the pain.
Support Your Feet
When you’re asking what you can do for plantar fasciitis, it’s important to note the role that your shoes can play. Since the plantar fascia runs from the heels to the toes, having proper arch support is essential if you want to relieve the pain.
There are a few options:
- Buy over-the-counter orthotic inserts. Two brands that are good are SuperFeet Green or Powerstep. (Soft gel inserts do not provide enough support to be of use.)
- Visit a podiatrist and get custom orthotics. These are the best option because they are made especially for your feet.
- Tape the arches of your feet – a process known as low-Dye taping. If done properly, the tape provides some support and pain relief.
- Wear night splints to support and stretch your arches while you sleep.
These options are particularly good for supporting your feet throughout the night and day. You may also want to invest in some shoes with strong arch support.
In many cases, stretching, icing, and supporting your feet will take care of plantar fasciitis symptoms. However, there are some more aggressive treatments to consider:
- Corticosteroid injections or iontophoresis may help reduce severe inflammation.
- Platelet rich plasma injections or extracorporeal shock wave therapy may also help in serious cases of plantar fasciitis.
- While there is little research to back it up, some people who have plantar fasciitis visit A.R.T. (Active Release Technique) or Graston Technique practitioners. Both are massage therapies.
It’s important to consider the severity of your pain before committing to any invasive or aggressive treatment.
I have done cortisol injections where I had to go to the foot doctor to get it done. It did help alleviate the pain but didn’t not fix it. I will tell you that you have to really get your head into the right place when the doctor does it. They actually shoot the needle into your heel or affected area which is sensitive. So, if you hate getting any kind of shots, you definitely will not like this one. 🙂
Now I also did the Graston Technique as well. Holy nuts batman, you want to talk about a painful foot massage. You better be able to take pain because the first few sessions are seriously gonna hurt. They grind the hell out of your foot with a massage tool. It did eventually help but I would not personally do it again. I would seriously just go right to doing the right stretches and exercises to fix the imbalances and get my butt back into training without going through hell again. Which is what I did by following this plantar faciitis program here.
Knowing what you can do for plantar fasciitis is half the battle when it comes to relieving the pain it causes. We recommend trying the least invasive techniques first, including icing and stretching, before moving on to any aggressive treatments. In most cases, rest and some at-home therapies are enough to relieve plantar fasciitis pain.