What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a painful foot condition where the plantar fascia – a thick band of connective tissue extending from the heel to the ball of the foot – becomes inflamed due to overuse or too much tension. Plantar fasciitis causes a lot of pain to those who suffer from it, and it makes it difficult to perform normal daily activities like grocery shopping, walking and carrying purses or briefcases. Athletes who suffer from plantar fasciitis have to limit their workouts, making it difficult to stick to an effective training schedule.
You know you have plantar fasciitis if you have a sharp pain in your heel or just in front of the heel that is usually worse first thing in the morning but gradually lessens as your foot warms up throughout the day. Stretching the plantar fascia along the bottom of your foot will be painful, and increased activity may make the foot pain worse.
But what causes this painful foot condition?
There are a number of potential causes of plantar fasciitis, but in general, the inflammation and degeneration of the tissue is caused by excessive strain on the bottom of your foot. Of course, “excessive strain” can be anything from being overweight to pregnancy, high level athletics (especially running) or poor body mechanics due to old injuries or surgeries.
Those who stand and walk for long periods of time, especially on concrete, are more likely to develop pain in the bottoms of their feet. Tight calf muscles, illiotibial band tension and imbalances in the hips can all contribute to imbalanced body mechanics that place excess strain on the plantar fascia over time.
People who pronate (roll their feet inward) chronically overstretch the plantar fascia and may develop plantar fasciitis, especially if they are active in dancing, running, or other sports that put a lot of strain on the feet.
Plantar Fasciitis Treatment
While most practitioners recommend supportive shoes to eliminate symptoms of plantar fasciitis, I disagree. While arch supports and rigid shoes can be helpful when the symptoms are acute, the human foot is a marvel of engineering that is brilliantly designed to support the weight of your body and facilitate walking and running.
With the advent of athletic shoes, we’ve become addicted to cushion and support, believing that our feet cannot function properly without a lot of extraneous material holding us up; however, the world-record for a 26 mile marathon was set by Ethiopian Abebe Bikila who ran the entire race BAREFOOT.
When you add too much support to your feet, you inhibit their natural function, causing them to be lazy and flaccid. Here are a couple of exercises you can start to perform now to eliminate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis and prevent future foot pain:
- Practice picking up objects, such as pens or marbles, with your toes.
- Lay a towel on a hard surface, like a hardwood floor. With your bare foot, scrunch the towel up using your toes, then spread it out and repeat.
- Roll the bottom of your foot on a tennis ball to alleviate tension in the plantar fascia.
No matter how long you’ve suffered with plantar fasciitis, you can get relief. Do these simple exercises daily and you’ll be back on your feet in no time.