Should you be suffering from pain on the underside of your foot, and most likely under your heel, you might have something called Plantar Fasciitis. It is one of the most common injuries we see amongst our clients' feet.
Under our feet, we have a thick band of connective tissue called the plantar fascia. It’s a vital element of the foot's structure. It connects the heel bone to the toes. When this fascia is overstretched or overused it causes sharp pain under the heel and can make walking and exercise very uncomfortable.
This pain is often increased in the morning when the fascia has had the chance to tighten up overnight or after a long day of non-weight bearing. The pain can be both a dull ache or a sharp consistent pain at the bottom of the foot near the heel. The pain can also be aggravated by long periods of standing.
How does it get injured?
When we put connective tissue under stress or strain, small micro-tears begin to form, resulting in scar tissue. A healthy plantar fascia ligament has the ability to support the arch of the foot when walking or exercising.
But with repetitive overuse, especially when people increase their overall activity levels, the plantar fascia can lose its elasticity, making it stiff and triggering inflammation and pain.
Some contributory factors to think about
• Unsupportive footwear with no arch (fit-flops, fashion trainers)
• Flat or high-arched feet
• Tightness in your calves (your hamstrings and Achilles might also be affected)
• Long hours on your feet
• Rapid weight gain
How can we treat Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis can be stubborn to treat, often lasting for several months or more.
Sports massage can assist by speeding up recovery, but works best when it is complemented by following simple steps at home, such as:
• Rest: This means avoiding excess exercise; running or walking.
• Using ice: Apply an ice compress under the foot for 10 mins a few times per day. Remember not to place the ice pack directly onto your skin. Ice will help to numb the area and reduce any inflammation
• Massage ball: In the seated position, place the massage ball under the arch of your foot and gently move the foot over the ball. In places, this will most likely be painful but go slow and steady for the best results.
• Footwear: Think about your footwear, make sure you change up the footwear you exercise in regally, making sure you’ve got a supportive arch. Try and avoid bare feet on hard surfaces.
• Stretches: Stretching both the foot and your other leg muscles will help improve foot mobility. Read on more ideas...
Standing Gastrocnemius Stretch
1. Stand about arm's-length from the wall.
2. Lean forward and place both hands on the wall.
3. Extend one foot (the muscle to be stretched) behind you keeping your heel on the ground, with the other foot closer to the wall.
4. Lean towards the wall with your hips until you feel a stretch in the calf of the extended leg.
5. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds, and then change sides.
6. For a deeper stretch, move your foot further back.
Standing Soleus Stretch
1. Standing tall, take a half step forward.
2. Keep your weight evenly distributed on both feet and with your heels on the ground, slowly bend your knees and sink toward the ground.
3. You should feel a stretch in the back of your leg, just above the heel.
4. Continue to sink slowly with your hips to deepen the stretch.
5. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds and change sides.
Self-massage: Wringing Technique
1. Remove your shoes and socks - this movement can be performed without lotion
2. Sit upright in a sturdy chair. Place your ankle (injured foot) on the other thigh, just above your knee.
3. Using a twisting motion, wring the foot as if you were wringing out a dishcloth.
4. In slow movements, work your way up the entire foot.
5. Begin slowly increasing the speed and intensity of the wringing as the muscles begin to relax.