If you've been dealing with heel pain or arch pain—especially when you first wake up—you may have plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot from the ball to the hell. Sometimes, too much stress can cause this tissue to become inflamed and tear. There are many causes for this issue, such as carrying extra weight, inheriting poor foot mechanics (e.g. flat feet), or standing a lot in a job setting. Thankfully, this issue can resolve itself if you give yourself a little TLC.
Stretch When You Get Out of Bed
The Achilles tendons—which attach your calf muscles to your heels—and your plantar fascia naturally tighten at night. So set your alarm earlier so that you have at least ten minutes each morning to stretch away the pain. This stretching will loosen up the fascia, reduce your pain, and protect the ligament from further micro-tears.
Put one foot on a golf ball or lacrosse ball to massage and stretch out your arches. Then, without the balls, use a wall for support and extend one leg backwards for a good calf stretch. If you have a staircase with a good railing, you can also drop one heel off the edge of a step for a nice stretch. Some people find that they can't set foot on the ground after getting up without some pain. If this is the case, keep a towel or yoga band next to your bed so that you can wrap it around your feet and stretch and flex them upward without placing pressure on them.
Consider Orthotics and Better Shoes
If you have naturally flat feet or are on your feet all day at work, then you need to have shoes that provide good support. While you want your shoes to be comfortable, shoes that have spongy insoles may not provide proper arch support, and the soles may be too soft which can place extra stress on your heels. If you aren't sure which shoes would work, consider asking a podiatrist, like those at East Village Foot & Ankle Surgeons, for some recommendations or custom orthotics. You may want to invest in some nursing clogs, since these kinds of shoes are made for people that are on their feet all day.
Pamper your Feet
Icing and elevating your feet can reduce inflammation in your arches and heels. Some people find relief with reflexology, or zone therapy, where you massage your feet with oils and apply pressure to tender points. Epsom salt baths are another great option, as magnesium sulfate can ease sore muscles and cramps and improve the blood circulation in your feet.
When to See a Podiatrist . . .
If the plantar fasciitis isn't feeling somewhat better after about a month of self-care, you should see a podiatrist for further help. Depending on the severity of the condition, it can take as little as three months for you and your doctor to fix the issue. Severe cases may need to be treated for about a year.
Your doctor may end up determining that you have another problem, like heel spurs, since they can have similar symptoms. Some people have equinus, a condition of limited ankle flexibility. If that's the case, your podiatrist can set you up with night splints which can then relieve your plantar fasciitis symptoms.
Whatever the cause of your pain, you and your podiatrist can get to the bottom of it together.