9 Tips For Healing Plantar Fasciitis
If you've ever experienced this pain, you know it's no joke.
If you’ve ever experienced the pain from plantar fasciitis, you know it’s no joke. I recently recovered from my second case, and this time it was worse than the first. As a longtime runner, it has been really hard for me to rest enough in order to get my foot to heal.
I spoke with Jerome Enad, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon board-certified in sports medicine, about this inflammation of the tissue in the foot. “The plantar fascia is a long ligament at the bottom of your foot just underneath the skin that connects your heel to the ball of your foot, like a bowstring on a crossbow,” he explained. “It helps preserve the arch of your foot and absorbs a lot of the shock with each step you take. Repeated pressure on the foot can cause irritation and inflammation anywhere along the plantar fascia, usually at the heel or along the arch. Excessive pressure or high loads on the foot can cause the fascia to get overstretched or even torn.”
What can cause the extra stress that can make even walking difficult? Enad said things like flat feet and high arches can be prone to plantar fasciitis because they absorb shock inefficiently.
Another cause is overuse and walking/running/jumping on hard surfaces. I believe this is how I got plantar fasciitis, since I’d been running a lot and my foot felt tender. I then added to the pain by shopping all day wearing nonsupportive shoes. My pain went from mild to excruciating overnight and I could barely walk for the next two days. The other culprit may be poorly cushioned shoes, according to Enad.
The main symptoms include pain or tenderness in your heel or arch area, foot pain, stiffness and tenderness. Pain can range from mild to extremely uncomfortable. However, there are things you can do at home to ease your pain and symptoms immediately. Here are things recommended by Enad — as well as what I did to heal my plantar fasciitis — that you can do right now.
Roll a frozen water bottle under your foot
This is something you can do for immediate relief. Simply take a water bottle, fill it with water and put it in the freezer for a few hours. When it’s nice and firm, stand up while holding on to a table or countertop for support — or you can do this sitting down. Roll your foot over the frozen water bottle from your heels to your toes. You should apply light pressure, and it shouldn’t be painful. Make sure you ease up a bit when you hit your tender spot, but don’t avoid it. Enad recommends you do this for 15 minutes three to four times a day.
Roll your foot over a tennis or lacrosse ball
Tennis and lacrosse balls work well because of their size and hardness. Position yourself the same way as described when using a frozen water bottle — make sure you have plenty of support. Start from your toes and roll your foot all the way down the ball using light pressure.
Roll your foot over a hard spiky ball
There are spiky balls made specifically for plantar fasciitis like this one. I used one of these after my foot wasn’t as sore (because the thought of the spikes on my foot was a bit too much). I was pleasantly surprised though, because it actually felt really good and worked better than the tennis ball or water bottle.
Wear a splint at night
There are a lot of different splints out there for foot and heel pain. I decided on this very basic one. I wore it at night and couldn’t believe how much it helped. Plantar fasciitis tends to be the worst in the morning and gets a bit better as you move. The splint stretched my foot out in just the right position — and the next morning I was able to take a pain-free step.
You can get these splints in a lot of retail stores, and they aren’t expensive. Make sure you get one that’s specific for foot and heel pain. Keep in mind that at night it’s not supposed to be painful. When I first put mine on I didn’t feel like it was stretching out my foot enough, so I tightened it. That wasn’t the answer because my foot was throbbing. Adjust your splint so it’s a very gentle stretch, and if you can’t sleep with it on all night, remember that part of the time is better than nothing. Enad says these work because “night splints keep your foot and calf statically stretched during your sleep.”
Take over-the-counter or prescription-strength anti-inflammatory medication
While this didn’t completely take the pain away for me, it did take the edge off and make it more tolerable to do the other things I needed to do, such as rolling the ball or water bottle under my foot.
Enad recommends doing static stretches for your calves at least three to four times a day, holding each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds at a time. There are many stretches you can do throughout the day to release those tight muscles, which will help with plantar fasciitis. I followed stretches from Washington University Physicians that my doctor recommended. I did them as many times a day as I could, and they really helped with the stiffness in my foot.
I know this is almost impossible to do on some days, but you have to rest your feet. If you are a runner and not being able to run is as difficult for you as it is for me, try doing something low impact that won’t bother your feet — like the elliptical machine, bike or a light arm workout. You have to rest your feet so they can heal, and then you can get back to your regular activities.
Use arch supports
I don’t always wear supportive shoes, but it’s imperative when you have plantar fasciitis. Going barefoot should be avoided too. I got these arch supports and wore them all the time — along with supportive sneakers. The compression felt great on my arch, and I had immediate relief. Even on my most painful days after a few stretches, I’d put these on with sneakers and walking was bearable.
Go see your doctor
If you’ve tried all of these things and your plantar fasciitis isn’t getting better, call your doctor. I have a friend who went to regular physical therapy sessions that healed her plantar fasciitis. I know someone else who gets regular cortisone shots because hers got so bad. There’s a woman in my spin class who said she has to have surgery because her plantar fasciitis is interfering with her everyday life too often.
These exercises and products helped me get some relief immediately. My plantar fasciitis was almost completely healed in two weeks, and I was able to run again after three weeks. We all heal differently, and the pain from plantar fasciitis isn’t something you can stand for long — so it’s nice to know you probably have things in your home right now that can help. Doing the stretches and rolling can help prevent future cases of plantar fasciitis.
Enad suggests that if you think you have plantar fasciitis you should avoid these things: wearing poorly fitted or poorly cushioned shoes for prolonged periods, doing running/jumping exercises without stretching the calves, and exercising only on one surface all the time.