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The 1-2-3 of Treating Plantar Fasciitis

Treating Plantar Fasciitis 1-2-3

Plantar Fasciitis - A Painful Condition

Plantar fasciitis (fashy-EYE-tis) – a painful inflammation of the plantar fascia – affects 10 to 15% of the population. That means that roughly 1 in 10 people will experience it over the course of their lifetime. Even the President of the United States isn’t immune. One of President Obama’s recent routine physical exam noted that the he suffered from “recurrent right plantar fasciitis.” Too much basketball Mr. President?

The plantar fascia is a large band of fibrous tissue that runs lengthwise down the foot from the toe to the arch. When the band is overstretched, microscopic tears occur on the surface of the fibrous tissue. Inflammation and pain follow.

As William R. Olson, DPM, says, “Think of the arch of the foot as a hunting bow and the plantar fascia as the bow string. If you put pressure on the top of the bow or arch, it will tighten the plantar fascia and cause it to stretch.”

Of course, the bow is built to bear weight and stretch under use. But if the tension on the bowstring becomes too great or the wood is weak or misshapen, the bowstring runs the risk snapping. The same can be said of your plantar fascia. If you increase the load on your plantar fascia too quickly or you have biomechanical irregularities such as flat feet or overpronation, you can develop tiny tears on the plantar fascia.

Treating Plantar Fasciitis

Any veteran sufferer will know that a 3-prong approach works best in treating plantar fasciitis.

  1. Reduce inflammation

  2. Stretch and strengthen the ankle, foot, and calf muscles

  3. Protect the plantar fascia from further trauma

Step 1: Reduce Inflammation and Relieve Pain

The inflammation and pain caused by plantar fasciitis can be excruciating. Podiatrists and orthopedists recommend employing various methods to combat the problem.

    • Ice – Ice several times a day for 15 minutes each time. We recommend the following methods:

        • Fill a paper cup with water and freeze it. When ready, peel off the top part of the paper and rub the cup along the arch and heel.

        • Rest the arch and heel on an ice pack.

        • Frozen vegetables such as peas or corn work well as they will contour to the heel and arch.

        • Non-Steroidal Pain Relievers (NSAIDS) – Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).

          • Night Splints – This splint stretches your calf muscles and maintains your foot (and plantar fascia) in an extended position while you sleep.

            • Massage – Rub a golf ball along the fascia to massage it and release tension.

                      More aggressive measures such as steroid injections, extra-corporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), and even surgery are only considered if you have been suffering from plantar fasciitis for more than 6-12 months and none of the normal interventions have improved symptoms.

                      Step 2: Stretch and Strengthen

                      Think of the plantar fascia as a big rubber band that stretches from the heel to the toe, supporting the arch of your foot. Both it – and the other rubber bands it connects to – need to be flexible to avoid snapping.

                      The tendons and muscles that connect to the fascia also need to be flexible. The Achilles tendon connects the fascia to the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus). If any of these are tight, they will pull on the plantar fascia. In fact, almost 80% of people who suffer from plantar fasciitis have tight Achilles tendons or “heel cords.”

                      The following stretches will help loosen the fascia, tendons, and muscles that all contribute to plantar fasciitis. We recommend that you perform these exercises 2 to 4 times per day.

                      1. Fascia stretch – From a seated position, stretch the unaffected leg straight out in front of you. Bend the other leg and put it over your knee. Pull your toes back towards your shin bone for 10 to 15 seconds. You should feel a stretch in your arch. Repeat on the other side. If you are flexible enough, stretch both legs straight out in front of you with your heels on the floor. With your toes pointing straight up, grab the toes and pull them back towards the shin bones.

                      2. Achilles tendon stretch – Stand on a step. Relax your calf muscles, and slowly let your heels down over the edge of the step for 10 to 15 seconds. You should feel the stretch along the Achilles tendon.

                      3. Calf muscle stretch – Stand with one foot about a foot in front of the other. Point the toes of the back foot towards the heel of the front and lean towards a wall. Keep your back leg straight and bend your front one, keeping both heels firmly planted on the floor. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

                      As Joy Rowland, DPM, says: “Stretching is a big part of treatment for plantar fasciitis. We have to allow that ligament to stretch rather than pull.”

                      Step 3: Protect the Plantar Fascia

                      Because biomechanical irregularities such as flat feet, high arches, and overpronation can lead to plantar fasciitis, correcting any underlying foot problems and supporting the arch are key to avoiding the pain caused by plantar fasciitis. Strong arch support is critical to both recovery and prevention. Scientific studies have found that insoles – whether over-the-counter or custom-made – reduce pain levels related to plantar fasciitis.

                      Insoles can both help treat and prevent the development of plantar fasciitis:

                      • Treat – Insoles like the Stride will reduce the weightbearing load of the in the plantar fascia, allowing it to heal.

                      • Prevent – Insoles that properly support the arch lengthwise prevent overpronation, which can lead to plantar fasciitis.

                      Not all insoles are made the same. While your foot may be screaming for comfort, what it really needs is structural support. Soft, cushioned insoles will provide temporary relief. But they won't correct the overpronation that is leading to plantar fasciitis. Treating plantar fasciitis requires investing in quality footwear.

                      Our Stride insole has:

                      • Firm support to control pronation

                      • Four different arch heights to insure the perfect level of support for your feet

                      • A deep heel cup to keep your foot aligned and provide relief to heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis

                      • Cushion against shock with resilient, 4mm polyurethane foam

                      Are you experiencing plantar fasciitis? Have treatment tips to share? Leave a comment. Let us know how we can help you live pain free. Your feet will thank you. 

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