Every year approximately two million patients are treated for plantar fasciitis, the most common cause of pain on the bottom of the heel. It is usually felt on the first step out of bed in the morning or when walking again after resting from activity. If it persists, this pain can eventually be felt during all weight-bearing activity. It is not uncommon for the pain to radiate down the bottom of the foot toward the toes.
Taping the heel and arch and wearing gel inserts in a supportive shoe or sneaker is helpful. Some individuals need custom-made shoe inserts called orthotics.
Regular stretching that works to increase the flexibility of the plantar fascia and calf can help. No special equipment is needed.
If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, you should be particularly careful to warm up well before stretching and to ice your heel after stretching for 20-30 minutes at the point of maximum tenderness. Taking oral anti-inflammatory medications, trying a night splint, and massaging your heel with sports cream may also be helpful.
Massaging the plantar fascia by rolling your foot over a tube-like object about the size of a rolling pin may be helpful in easing symptoms. Likewise, scrunching a hand towel with your toes, or using your toes to pull a towel weighted with a can of food across the floor, can strengthen the muscles of the foot and ankle that support your arch, thereby giving you some relief.
There are quite a few things you can do to avoid the painful experience of plantar fasciitis in the first place:
- Don’t run to lose weight after rapid weight gain – start with walking and be sure to stretch your foot and calf thoroughly, then progress to faster walking and running.
- Wear sturdy shoes with good arch support for athletic activities.
- Keep the muscles of your feet and ankles strong to support your arch.
- Rest from activities that cause you pain in the heel.
As always, see your orthopaedic surgeon if your pain persists.
For more information, visit http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00149.