Plantar fasciitis can cause more inconvenience than almost any other type of ligament inflammation, since the injured ligament is put to use every time you take a step. This means that resting it is difficult and recovery is prone to setbacks. The plantar fascia is the ligament that connects your heel to the ball of your foot. When extra stress is placed on it, or if it is stretched in an irregular manner, it can become inflamed and cause pain in your heel. Luckily, it does not have to become a chronic condition and can be managed with some extra care and specific exercises.
First of all, you should be aware of the types of exercise that make the condition worse. Anything that involves using your foot in a repetitive motion that involves force against a hard surface should be avoided, such as running and jogging.
People who are at greater risk of developing plantar fasciitis are those who have either flat feet (“fallen arches”) or high arches, and whose foot tends to roll inward (overpronation). These all contribute to a weakness in the foot, so strengthening the foot muscles is particularly important for these people. Other factors that contribute to plantar fasciitis are short and tight calf muscles, standing for long periods of time, particularly in improper footwear, and being overweight, which puts undue strain on the bottom of the sole.
Stretching the Achilles tendon (which attaches your calf muscle to your heel) is important, as tightness here can keep you from flexing your foot freely, putting more strain on the plantar fascia. And the plantar fascia itself should be stretched gently on a regular basis as well to keep inflammation from becoming a problem. These both tend to tighten overnight, which is why those with plantar fasciitis tend to find their condition worse first thing in the morning when taking their first few steps from bed.
Following are some simple exercises you can do to help treat plantar fasciitis:
- Sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, loop a towel or belt around the ball of your foot and pull back slowly until you feel a good pull in your calf muscle. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. Repeat with the other leg.
- Stand facing a wall at about arm’s length and lunge forward with one leg while keeping the other behind you with the heel flat on the floor. You should feel the stretch in the calf muscle. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch to the other leg. Repeat the sequence a few times a day.
- To stretch the plantar fascia, use a wall or stair to press the bottom your toes against so that they extend upward, while the ball of your foot remains touching the floor. Hold for 45-60 seconds on each foot and repeat twice. Sports doctors recommend this be done twice a day.
Massaging the plantar fascia by rolling your foot slowly back and forth over a rolling pin or drink can for a few minutes each day can also help to relieve plantar fasciitis.