With summer now upon us I’d like to discuss a common complaint which consistently pops up at this time of year – the dreaded plantar fasciitis.
A lot of people are familiar with this diagnosis, especially if you have been affected by it before.
It can be debilitating and frustrating. If you ever do experience symptoms you won’t forgot the name any time soon.
It can present as pain in the underside of your heel, sometimes spreading through the arch of the foot or up the back of the leg.
It is commonly worse in the morning when you take the first few steps for the day, or after periods of rest.
The pain is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia.
The plantar fascia is a thickening of fascia (a connective tissue of similar quality to tendon or ligament) which runs from the base of your heel to the balls of your feet.
This inflammation often occurs because the plantar fascia is under too much stress, especially where it inserts into the base of the heel.
This increased stress can be due to poor mechanics of the foot and/or tight surrounding musculature.
Tight calf and intrinsic foot muscles can contribute to plantar fasciitis and is often caused by a sudden increase in physical activity.
Uneven weight bearing resulting in more load in one foot compared to the other can also play a part.
Extra loading on one side can be caused by restrictions higher up the chain, the hips or lower back for example.
The foot is an area of the body which is comprised of many smaller bones and joints. Restrictions can lead to poor biomechanics.
A common occurrence in patients with plantar fasciitis is a pronated (collapsed or flattened) foot arch. Sometimes “flat feet” can be addressed by a visit to your local podiatrist, where a supportive orthotic will be fitted.
Sometimes a supportive orthotic can help some of the inflamed structures involved in plantar fasciitis, especially in patients with poor foot posture.
Inadequate supportive footwear seems to play a large factor at this time of year.
It’s an Australian tradition to chuck on a pair of thongs in the warmer months.
Why not? Get some sun on the top of our feet and feel the fresh air. Plus it’s so much easier than socks that get sweaty with runners.
Trips down to the beach or the first basin swimming pool can find us wearing flat thongs for days. This can be quite an abrupt change after our feet have become used to supportive and arched footwear.
I’m not here to be a wet blanket, I just want to encourage some awareness.
Try not to go from zero to 100. Maybe wear the thongs for part of the day and then make an effort to wear some supportive runners for the rest.
If you are plagued by some of the symptoms we spoke about earlier, here are some things to try at home.
This inflammation often occurs because the plantar fascia is under too much stress ...
The same as always, if you feel any pain on the exercises please cease until you are able to speak with a qualified health professional.
Find a step and drop your heel off the back. Once you feel a tightness in your calf hold for 15 seconds. Have a quick break and perform three times.
Plantar fascia stretch
Grab an old towel and while standing, hold one end of the towel and place your foot on the other end. Ensure your heel is on one end and the towel runs under the length of your foot, heel to toe.
Pull the towel upwards so that it stretches the toes and foot back towards you. You should feel some stretch in the base of your foot. Perform three sets of 15 seconds.
Golf ball/cricket ball exercise
Depending on your foot sensitivity, grab a tennis, golf or cricket ball. A frozen, small-sized bottle will also work wonders. Use these objects to find tender spots in the arch of your foot and press with firm pressure until you feel ease.
This is a great exercise to do while watching the news. (If using the bottle you will find the shape should match up nicely with the arch of your foot)
Strengthening for feet
Sometimes we need to strengthen the muscles that build the arch of our foot. Spend some time each day picking up a small towel or even tissues with your toes.
Pick it up and then drop it back to the floor. Repeat three sets of ten pickups.
Combining some stretch and strengthening exercises along with wearing supportive footwear can be an effective way of combatting plantar fasciitis.
There are also arch supports which can alleviate pressure through the foot, helpful in assisting with the pain. These can be found at most chemists.
You may need a helping hand from a podiatrist or other manual therapist to help identify and address the causes of your pain.
Enjoy a hobble-free summer.