As a podiatrist with Westchester Health who specializes in conditions of the feet and ankles, I see a lot of plantar fasciitis, the most common cause of heel pain. Whether caused by overuse, flat arches, a job that keeps you on your feet or badly-fitting shoes, for many people the pain of this condition can be excruciating. To help relieve the symptoms and causes of plantar fasciitis, and possibly prevent it altogether, I offer this blog of remedies and preventative actions you can do at home.
What exactly is plantar fasciitis?
The plantar fascia is the flat band of ligament tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes. Its function is to support the arch of your foot, but if you strain the fascia, it becomes swollen, irritated…and very painful, resulting in plantar fasciitis. Patients actually tell me that it feels like someone is hammering nails into their heel.
Plantar fasciitis pain is usually at its worse first thing in the morning when you get out of bed, although it can also be triggered by getting up from a seated position or by standing for long periods.
What causes it?
Strenuous sports or vigorous activities that place a lot of stress on your heel and attached tissue—such as long-distance running, basketball, ballet dancing and dance aerobics—can contribute to plantar fasciitis. Additional causes that may increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis are:
- Your age. Plantar fasciitis is most common between the ages of 40 and 60.
- The natural construction of your foot. Being flat-footed, having a high arch or an abnormal pattern of walking.
- Being overweight. Excess pounds put extra stress on your plantar fascia.
- Occupations that keep you on your feet. Factory workers, waiters/waitresses, chefs, nurses, pharmacists, teachers and others who spend most of their work hours walking or standing on hard surfaces have an increased incidence of plantar fasciitis.
10 home remedies for plantar fasciitis
Here are 10 treatments you can do on your own at home to lessen and even prevent the pain of this condition:
- Lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight. Less weight that your feet and ankles need to support will minimize the stress on your plantar fascia.
- Wear supportive shoes. Choose shoes with a low to moderate heel, substantial arch support and good shock absorbency.
- Do not go barefoot, especially on hard surfaces.
- Avoid high heels.
- Do not wear worn-out athletic shoes. Replace old, tattered, non-supportive athletic shoes. If you’re a runner, buy new shoes every 500 miles.
- Change your sport. Try a low-impact sport, such as swimming or bicycling, instead of high-impact ones such as basketball, tennis or running.
- Apply ice. Place a cloth-covered ice pack over the painful area for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day or after athletic activity. You can also fill a paper cup with water and freeze it, then roll the ice over the area until the pain subsides.
- Stretch your arches. Your lower legs, calves, ankles and feet need to be stretched several times a day. Here are 3 great stretches:
- Stand at a doorframe holding the edges of the frame. Place your heel on the floor close to the frame and the ball of your foot up against the frame. Pulling gently with your hands, slightly bend your knee and press your foot into the doorframe while leaning forward. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat.
- Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you and a towel wrapped around your foot. Gently pull back on the towel and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat, then go to the other foot. It’s important to stretch both feet, even if one is not injured.
- Stand barefoot on the affected leg on a stair or box, with a rolled-up towel resting beneath the toes of the sore foot and the heel extending over the edge of the stair or box. The unaffected leg should hang free, bent slightly at the knee. Slowly raise and lower the affected heel to a count of 3 seconds up, 2 seconds at the top and 3 seconds down. You can add a backpack stuffed with books to add weight.
- Massage. While sitting, roll a tennis ball around under your foot, massaging the area. A frozen water bottle also works well.
- Rest. Your feet need time off from whatever is causing the plantar fasciitis. Stop or at least cut back on whatever activity you feel might be triggering the pain.
By following these home remedy treatments, your plantar fasciitis should become less painful and hopefully after a few weeks of icing, massaging, stretching and resting, it may go away altogether.
Here are some additional treatments and therapies I recommend for relief from plantar fasciitis pain:
- Physical therapy. A physical therapist can show you a series of exercises to stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and strengthen lower leg muscles, all of which will stabilize your ankle and heel, helping to alleviate the condition and reduce the pain.
- Night splints. Wear a splint that stretches your calf and the arch of your foot while you sleep. This holds the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight, which helps stretch them.
- Arch supports.Custom-fitted arch supports (orthotics) or OTC heel cups or cushions help distribute pressure to the feet more evenly.
If you think you have plantar fasciitis
If you’re experiencing pain in your heel(s) which you think might be due to plantar fasciitis, make an appointment to come see me at one of my Westchester Health offices. I’ll examine your heels, ankles and feet, evaluate your condition, and together with you, determine the best course of treatment to alleviate and hopefully, eliminate your pain.