In a quest for fitness and better health, many people – especially runners – embark on an exercise regimen that has them logging too much distance too quickly. An overzealous running program can cause everything from blisters to serious joint concerns, plus everything in between. Plantar fasciitis, is one of those “in-between” injuries, and one of the most common causes of heel pain in runners, walkers, and people who stand for long periods of time at work.
The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that runs lengthwise across the bottom of the foot, from the heel bone to the toes. Too much running or standing can stress the plantar fascia, causing small tears in the tissue, leading to irritation, inflammation, and heel pain, which is usually most noticeable when taking your first steps after getting out of bed, or up out of a chair after sitting for a long time. Plantar fasciitis should be diagnosed and treated by a physician, trainer, or other professional. They may recommend more supportive shoes, custom orthotics, a stretching regimen, or a combination of all three. Stretching is part of nearly every plantar fasciitis recovery plan.
Plantar fasciitis takes time to heal. Most professionals will recommend resting the foot, avoiding exercise that could further irritate the plantar fascia, and icing the heel several times a day. Serious or chronic pain may call for more intense treatment, but increasing support for the arch, being smart about exercise, and stretching the foot in the morning before getting out of bed typically provides some relief. Your physician or trainer can tape your foot to provide temporary support while you wait for orthotics.
Plantar fascia stretches can help keep the plantar fascia tissue long, strong, and less prone to tearing upon impact, and most stretches don’t require any special equipment. Many trainers recommend using a towel to stretch before you get out of bed. Just place your foot on a rolled up towel, hold on to both ends, and pull back gently to stretch your arch. Rolling your foot on a ball or cylinder can be effective, and simply pulling back on your toes with your hand can produce a good stretch, too.
Night splints can help you stretch and get back to feeling better while you sleep, too. Ask your doctor or trainer for an appropriate course of homecare treatment to get relief from painful plantar fasciitis.