Plantar fasciitis is a relatively common foot problem that can cause significant pain to sufferers. Many people turn to medication or surgery to treat this uncomfortable condition. Fortunately, however, t’s possible to tackle plantar fasciitis with some simple but effective home remedies.
What is plantar fasciitis?
The plantar fascia is a strong band of tissue that runs across the underside of your foot from your heel to the middle foot bones. It supports the arches of your feet and helps to absorb shock as you walk or run. If this tissue band gets inflamed, it causes plantar fasciitis.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel pain, usually about 3 inches forward from your heel bone. This discomfort is typically worse after a period of inactivity, such as first thing in the morning or after sitting down for a while. It generally eases after gentle exercise, but anything more active makes it worse again.
What are the main causes of plantar fasciitis?
The plantar fascia is rather like a strong rubber band, so anything that ‘overworks’ or strains it can cause problems. People with jobs that require them to be on their feet for long periods of time may get plantar fasciitis, especially if they wear shoes that don’t give proper support and cushioning. Activities such as hiking and running can also be culprits—if you suddenly increase the amount of exercise you do, you may inflame your plantar fascia. This can be made worse if you have a tight Achilles tendon and calf muscles, as this tightness puts extra strain on the underside of your foot. Lifestyle factors also play a part, including inactivity and obesity.
How can I treat plantar fasciitis naturally?
Rest: It’s essential to rest your feet, so limit your exercise or walking and try to elevate your feet periodically.
Ice: An ice pack may also help to reduce inflammation.
Good shoes: Wear good supportive shoes at all time, and note that arch supports or heel pads may help as well.
Massage: Careful massage, including gentle stretching of your foot, can be very beneficial. A qualified sports massage therapist can provide this.
Exercise: There are several exercises you can do at home to help prevent or treat plantar fasciitis. If you are at risk of developing the symptoms, perhaps because of your job or because you’re an athlete, it’s a good idea to do these exercises regularly, whether or not you suffer from plantar fasciitis—after all, prevention is better than cure!
- Pushing against a wall: Stand about 16-20 inches away from a wall. Lean on the wall and bend one knee, keeping your other leg stretched out behind you with your heel on the ground or slightly raised. Push against the wall to increase the intensity – you should feel the stretch in your Achilles tendon and calf muscles – and hold for ten seconds. Change legs. Repeat five times for each leg
- Use the stairs: Stand on the bottom step with your toes and the balls of your feet on the step and the back half of each foot overhanging the edge. Holding the banister for safety, lower your heels slowly and carefully to stretch out your Achilles. Repeat ten times
- Pull on your feet: Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Loop a towel or stretch band around the ball of your foot and pull towards you for around ten seconds. Do the same with your other foot. Repeat ten times
- Sitting stretch: Sit on a high chair (such as a dining chair), with your legs bent at right angles in front of you. Keeping your heel on the floor, lift the front of your foot. Again, you should feel the stretch in your calf muscles. Repeat ten times
- Roll the undersides of your feet: Place a sturdy bottle or a golf ball under your foot and roll it around for a few minutes—you’ll be able to judge the best intensity for this, but be careful not to overdo it. Specially designed massagers (such as wooden foot balls) will do the same job
In persistent cases, options such as cortisone injections or even surgery may be appropriate. However, most instances of plantar fasciitis respond well to these home remedies, and regular exercise can help prevent the problem reoccurring.