Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain, affecting primarily individuals between 50 and 65 years old or younger persons who push their feet more than usual. It can happen in one foot or both feet. It has to do with the swelling and irritation of a dense tissue band (the plantar fascia), which that runs across the bottom of the foot and links the heel bone to the toes, thus supporting the arch of the foot. When the plantar fascia is affected, pain and difficulty in standing or walking occurs.
Plantar fasciitis is caused mainly by:
- Continuous straining of the ligament which supports the foot’s arch
- Excessive use of the feet in various ways (extensive walking, standing, running)
- Stiff calf muscles
- High arches or flat feet
- Inappropriate footwear that provide poor arch support
- Being overweight or a woman in pregnancy
- Pain and stiffness emerging when getting up after prolonged resting (i.e. after being lain or seated); then, the discomfort subsides gradually, although still being present
- Difficulty in climbing stairs
- Heel being tender to touch
Obviously, and since the plantar fasciitis symptoms can be sometimes confused with those provoked by an other disorder called tarsal tunnel syndrome, an experienced general practitioner is the pertinent person to make the diagnosis.
Plantar Fasciitis Exercises
First of all we need to notice how important it is to follow specific guidance when performing a stretching routine. The aim of the following stretching exercises is to mitigate the stiffness of the tendons and fascia which are located slightly above the heel, thus also reducing plantar fasciitis pain and discomfort. So:
- For start, a passive calf stretch (photo 1); take a band and, lying down on the floor with your back straight, your legs straightened, enfold it around your left foot, just under your toes, and hold both ends with your left hand; now, gently push your heel away from you while at the same time slightly dragging the upper part of your foot towards you using the band; the moment you feel the stretch, hold it for 15-20 seconds; relax, place the belt on the right foot and repeat; 4-5 times for each foot should be just fine.
- An active/static exercise (photo 2); stand erect and gently push your upper body down by bending your knees (in essence, performing a controlled squat motion) without taking your heels off the ground at any moment; stay there for 15-20 seconds, rise gently, take a rest and repeat for 5-8 times; for better stability, you may choose to keep one hand onto a table or a chair – but without using in to make the exercise more convenient!
- A dynamic one; put a tennis ball or a can on the floor, place your arch onto it and start rolling your foot forward and backward so that the ball or can moves from just below your toes to the back end of the arch (just ahead of the heel); keep doing that for 1 minute, then repeat with the other leg, completing 4-6 repetitions for each foot (photo 3).
- Another static stretch; sit on a chair with your left leg being crossed over the right one; now, pulling your left leg’s toes backwards either using your hand or not; the moment you feel the stretch, hold it for 20-30 seconds, return slowly, switch legs and repeat for a total of 10 repetitions (photo 4).
But that’s not over! You can also carry out some stretches presented elsewhere such as the soleus stretch, the standing calf stretch, the step stretching (photo 5), stretches that focus in the gastrocnemius etc., and generally implement as many of the achilles tendon stretches – as possible (since, as mentioned previously, tightness in that tendon could also be liable for plantar fasciitis). Needless to say that the proper assortment of the plantar fasciitis stretches must be decided by a qualified trainer so as to ensure that your special needs will be individualized, thus reaching the best possible outcome.
Finally you can apply dynamic versions of the static stretches and the opposite, active versions of the passive stretches and the opposite, as well to apply more sophisticated PNF or AIS forms of the aforementioned stretches!
Perform those stretches 4-5 times per week (or even on a daily basis, if possible). Moreover, remember that you will achieve the optimum result if you carry out your routine first thing in the morning!
Photos & Videos
Other Plantar Fasciitis Treatment Options
The following plantar fasciitis treatments are not of equal importance or effectiveness but can greatly improve the situation, especially when combined with the aforementioned stretches. So, you may be advised to:
- Perform less intense running or walking activities
- Carry out some special strengthening exercises
- Select trainers which provide adequate arch support and/or add heel pads in your shoes
- Use painkillers
- Utilize special plantar fasciitis night splints, which tighten up your feet when sleeping at night
- Surgery (as the last alternative)
In general, plantar fasciitis is unlikely to be completely healed but, definitely, a proper stretching program can take away some of the strain on the insertion of the heel and have a truly beneficial impact on alleviating a major amount of discomfort within a few weeks’ time period; still, the pain may some more months to subside substantially. In any case, professional advice prior to adopting a stretching or strengthening program is obligatory!
Category: Stretches and Diseases