Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of pain on the bottom of the heel. Doctors treat approximately 2 million patients for heel pain every year. If you haven’t experienced this condition, consider yourself lucky! It causes stabbing heel pain and walking steps, often followed by a slow recovery. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the strong band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot — the plantar fascia — becomes irritated and inflamed. The plantar fascia is designed to absorb the high stresses and strains we place on our feet, however, too much pressure can damage or tear the tissues. The body’s natural response to injury is inflammation, which results in the heel pain and stiffness of plantar fasciitis.
This is a good time of the year to take a close look at this condition, as we all prepare for our outdoor fitness regimens. Plantar fasciitis often strikes runners and serious walkers, particularly if they’ve recently started going much faster or farther than their feet were accustomed to. It also strikes sedentary middle-aged people carrying a little extra weight.
Plantar fasciitis often develops for no identifiable cause. However, there are many factors that can make you more likely to develop the condition condition including:
- Very high arch.
- Repetitive impact activity.
- New or increased activity.
The most common symptoms of plantar fasciitis are:
- Pain on the bottom of the foot near the heel
- Pain with the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning, or after a sedentary period, such as after a long car ride or a long day at the desk that subsides after a few minutes of walking
- Greater pain after exercise or activity
If you develop this condition, here are a few things you can do to help your feet heal:
- Give your feet a rest. Cut back on activities that make your foot hurt. Try not to walk or run on hard surfaces.
- To reduce pain and swelling, try putting ice on your heel.
- Do toe stretches and calf stretches several times a day, especially when you first get up in the morning.
- Get a new pair of shoes with good arch support and a cushioned sole.
- Orthotic insoles that support the arch can definitely help ease the pain, but be sure to use them in both shoes, even if only one foot hurts.
Eating plenty of foods high in flavonoids, especially blueberries and spinach, will help reduce swelling and inflammation. Cold-water fish such as mackerel, herring and salmon may provide you with essential fatty acids that are important for healing.
Start the season off on the right foot and you’ll enjoy your summer walking and running for months!