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What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

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If you’ve ever gone running or walking and awakened the next day to find that you’re hobbling around, barely able to walk, you may have plantar fasciitis. The pain in the bottom of your feet can even occur after simply sitting for long periods of time.

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photo by eduardo_m on flickr

The plantar fascia are the supporting ligaments that run across the bottom of your foot. They connect your heel to your toes and support the arches of your feet. When these ligaments become inflamed, plantar fasciitis pain is usually felt in the heel(s) of one or both feet.

Some triggers for plantar fasciitis include:

  • Walking or running for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete
  • Being overweight (Yes, I had that risk factor, too.)
  • Over-pronation (your foot rolls too far inward when you walk or run)
  • High arches or flat feet
  • Arthritis
  • Poorly fitting shoes

I first realized my tendency toward plantar fasciitis pain after walking the asphalt track at a local elementary school in during one of my failed attempts at weight-loss. I could barely stand when I got out of bed the next day. I hobbled around, holding on to furniture, seriously doubting that I was going to be able to go to church.

Thankfully, the pain decreased as I moved around a bit, as often happens with plantar fasciitis. However, I have suffered with it in the years since to the point that, when sitting at a restaurant or movie theater for awhile, my first steps, upon standing, are always cautious.

As I’ve lost weight, I’ve had less problems with plantar fasciitis – especially as related to just sitting for long periods of time. However, I have also discovered a number of techniques that help to alleviate the pain. I want to share those with you in case you, too, suffer from mild to moderate plantar fasciitis pain.

Use a resistance band to stretch your feet before getting out of bed. Plantar fasciitis pain is caused by the ligaments tightening up, so stretching them helps tremendously. Loop the band around your foot, just under your toes and pull the band gently, but firmly toward you so that heel is pushed out farther than your toes.

Rotate your feet at the ankles. First rotate your foot in a clockwise motion, then, counter-clockwise. Do this for a couple of minutes before getting out of bed or standing to loosen the plantar fascia ligaments.

Roll a frozen soda bottled under your foot. I keep an old 2-liter soda bottle filled with water in the freezer. I’ve learned to ice my feet after every long run. I put socks on and roll my feet back and forth on top of the soda bottle. I was surprised at how well this works.

Roll a tennis ball under your foot. This is the same principal as the soda bottle, but I like the soda bottle better because the ice feels good.

Always stretch your feet after a run or walk. You can do a traditional runner’s stretch. You can also straighten your leg out and pull your foot toward you, like you’d do with the resistance band. I always hold these two stretches for at least a minute or so after a long run.

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photo by luluemon athletica
 

Try inserts. Before I got my first pair of Dr. Scholl’s inserts in all my shoes. They helped tremendously. I’ve also heard that it’s a good idea to wear good supportive shoes, even in the house. I’m a Southern girl, so I just can’t make myself do that, but if your pain is high enough, you might be willing to try it.

Get fitted for shoes. As, I mentioned, once I got the right size shoe, a lot of my heel (and knee) pain subsided. I do still have pain in my heels after a long run, but I no longer wear inserts in my shoes.

Try Strassburg socks. Strassburg socks are designed to keep the plantar fascia pulled up in the stretch position as you sleep, alleviating much of the pain felt in the morning. (Note: I haven’t personally tried the socks because my pain hasn’t been so bad since taking some of the steps above.)

Take ibuprofen. If the pain is really bad, an anti-inflammatory, over-the-counter may help.

Obviously, if none of these at-home remedies help, you’ll probably want to see your doctor.

Do you – or have you ever – suffered from plantar fasciitis? What helped to alleviate your pain?

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