Have you ever felt like someone was hammering nails into your heel? You might have plantar fasciitis, or jogger’s heel, one of the most common causes of heel pain, says John Viscovich, DPM, MBA, FACFAS, a podiatrist with Westchester Health.
Causes of plantar fasciitis
Sports or activities that place a lot of stress on your heel and attached tissue — such as long-distance running, ballet dancing and dance aerobics — can contribute to plantar fasciitis. Additional causes that increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis include:
- 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.
Treatments for plantar fasciitis
There are many treatments and therapies, conservative and more invasive, which your physician might recommend to give you relief from plantar fasciitis:
- 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.
- Night splints. Your physical therapist or physician may recommend that you 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.
- Wear arch supports. Your physician may prescribe custom-fitted arch supports (orthotics) or OTC heel cups or cushions to help distribute pressure to your feet more evenly.
If you’re experiencing sharp pain in one of both of your heels, try these home remedies:
- Lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight. This minimizes the stress on your plantar fascia.
- Wear supportive shoes. Buy shoes with a low to moderate heel, good arch support and shock absorbency.
- Do not go barefoot, especially on hard surfaces, and avoid high heels.
- Don’t wear worn-out athletic shoes. Replace old, non-supportive athletic shoes. If you’re a runner, buy new shoes after every 500 miles of use.
- Change your sport. Try a low-impact sport, such as swimming or bicycling, instead of walking or running.
- Apply ice. Hold a cloth-covered ice pack over the area of pain for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day or after athletic activity. Or try ice massage. Freeze a water-filled paper cup and roll it over the site of discomfort for about five to seven minutes. Regular ice massage can help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Stretch your arches. Your lower legs, calves, ankles and feet need to be stretched daily — even better, several times a day. Here are 3 great stretches:
1. 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.
2. Sit down 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.
3. 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 to massage the area. A frozen water bottle also works well.
- Rest. Your feet need time off from whatever is causing the issue. Stop or cut way back on whatever activity you feel might be triggering the pain.
If you’re experiencing plantar fasciitis pain
If you think (or know) that you have 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. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.