Plantar Fasciitis and Orthotics

 

 

Plantar fasciitis is an affliction so painful and debilitating that I wouldn’t wish it on the worst of enemies. It is the type of injury that can strike anyone, though it afflicts runners in disproportionately high numbers. And while at-home treatments can reduce discomfort to a certain degree working on your running technique is one of the best defenses against this painful condition. There are several techniques available to assist you in your quest to recover from current injuries and to prevent new injuries from occurring.

Where Is My Plantar Tendon and What Is its Purpose?

Your plantar tendon runs along the underside of your foot from the bottom of your toes to the front of the heel. Your tendon attaches to your toes on one end and your heel at the other end by way of a thick, fibrous tissue called ‘fascia’. This fascia-covered tendon keeps the arch of the foot from totally flattening out when we put our weight on it, and a strong arch cushions and absorbs the shock of impact when we run, walk, or stand. This tendon is also put to work whenever we point our toes. It is a very important component in the proper functioning of our feet.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis literally means underside (plantar) tissue (fascia) inflammation (itis), which essentially means that the tissue covering the plantar tendon is inflamed.

What Causes It?

There are many underlying causes for plantar fasciitis but here are a few of the most commonly diagnosed factors:

 

  • Excessive walking or standing
  • Running up or down hills
  • Climbing stairs
  • Walking or running on tip-toe
  • Wearing high heels
  • Dorsiflexing (raising the toes upward as the heel hands when walking or running)
  • Tight calf muscles
  • Tight Achilles tendon
  • Wearing old or improperly structured or shoes
  • Abnormally high or low arches
  • Being overweight
  • Over-striding: If your stride is too large and you ‘gulp’ with your legs at each step you will tend to land hard on your heels, forcing them to contend with a force that is equal to six times your body weight with each step you take!

Having tight muscles and tendons can not only cause plantar fasciitis but can weaken the fascia’s attachment to the heel bone, and when the tendon is stretched further than the fascia can accommodate this creates micro-tears that cause the fascia to pull away from the bone, resulting in painful inflammation.

If the plantar tendon is overly stretched for a long period of time calcium deposits may develop between the tendon and the heel bon. If sufficient calcium is added to the initial deposit this will eventually cause a heel spur to form.

 

How It Feels to Have Plantar Fasciitis

Different people experience different symptoms but there is a general progression that most people experience:

  • At first you might feel like there’s a lump in the heel of your foot and while it’s not painful it is annoying and a spot on your heel just feels too thick or lumpy.
  • Tenderness may then develop in your heel, especially when you first get up in the morning or you have been sitting down for a long period of time. This discomfort likely dissipates as you begin to move around.
  • The tenderness eventually begins to linger throughout the day and it begins to feel less like a lump in your heel and more like there is a sharp stone pressing into your heel when you stand, walk, or run.
  • You are finally so uncomfortable with a pain that lasts the entire day that you begin researching what your symptoms mean and trying to alleviate your discomfort.

What Do I Do About Plantar Fasciitis?

Your pain didn’t become acute overnight and it will not leave overnight either. Treating plantar fasciitis takes time and patience. Make sure that you are familiar with early symptoms so that you can catch it and treat it earlier should it occur again. The best treatment of course, is to prevent it from occurring in the first place, and fortunately there are several steps you can take, and techniques you can use to minimize your risks.

Tips for Prevention and Early Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis

  • Take it Easy: Relax your legs (particularly the calves and ankles) when you walk, run, sit or stand. Try not to clench or constantly contract your muscles as this kind of tension the legs or buttocks will strain the plantar tendon.

 

  • Don’t Hammer With Your Heels:  Try to land smoothly on your mid-foot rather than pounding your heel into ground surfaces. This will help reduce tension in your plantar tendon minimize the force of impact.

 

  • Don’t ‘Gobble’ the Ground When Walking or Running: You don’t need to over-extend your leg when moving forward; gravity will do this for you if you allow your upper body to lead into the movement, followed by your legs. When you run lean forward from the ankles, shorten your stride, and land with your feet directly beneath you and not out in front of you.

Aside from the above tips stretching regularly will reduce your pain symptoms and can help to prevent plantar fasciitis from occurring or reoccurring:

 

Stretch 1

  • Stand arm’s length away from a blank wall.
  • Relax your legs and ankles.
  •  Put your hands on the wall shoulder height and lower yourself toward the wall by bending your elbows.
  •  Hold for 30 seconds; repeat 3 or 4 times.
  • Perform this stretch 3 or 4 times per day.

 

Stretch 2

 

  • Stand on a step, holding the wall or banister for support if necessary.
  • Extend your heels off the edge of the stair.
  •  Slowly lower your heel until you feel a stretch in your Achilles tendon and calf muscles.
  •   Hold for 30 to 40 seconds; and repeat 3 or 4 times.
  • Perform this stretch 3 or 4 times per day.

 

Tip: If you must sit for a long period of time, point your feet toward the ceiling as often as possible. This will stretch your calf muscles and Achilles tendon and will ease tightness in these muscles, and this will in turn reduce tension in your plantar fascia.

 

Here are a few other extra ideas to ease your pain and possibly prevent plantar fasciitis from reoccurring:

  • Walk on even, forgiving surfaces as often as possible.
  • Avoid hills when running; if you must run stick to cross country trails or tracks.
  • If you must stand for long periods of time invest in a thick rubber mat.
  • Treat yourself to a foot and lower leg massage – this will help to loosen up tense muscles and improve your circulation.

Treating Acute Pain


The foot and leg discomfort you experience may be quite severe at times, but there are steps you can take to ease serious pain:

  • Soak your feet in an ice bath for 5 to 10 minutes, twice a day while symptoms persist. Trust me; the results you experience are worth the discomfort of feeling cold!

 

  • Warm up the tendons in your feet and release tension by scrunching towels with your toes; or try to pick up marbles instead.

 

  • Walk barefoot on a gravelly or stone surface. This too may be uncomfortable but it will help your feet heel as this activity helps to keep the tendons in your feet supple.

 

  • Use a heel orthotics such as the dr foot pro insoles  in your shoe when inflammation is at its peak; this can help to reduce foot pain.

 

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition but with enough care and attention it is also avoidable, and anyone who has suffered from this painful affliction is well aware that an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure!

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