by Dr. Suzanne Bober
Do you suffer with foot or heel pain that feels the worst first thing in the morning? Does it affect your gait and limit your running?
You may be suffering from plantar fasciitis – a syndrome in which the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that runs from the heel along the arch of the foot becomes irritated and painful. This strong tight tissue contributes to maintaining the normal arch of the foot. It is also one of the major transmitters of weight across the foot as you walk or run.
It is largely believed that this condition is due to repetitive trauma or microtrauma at the origin of the plantar fascia and is aggravated by the presence of a low arch, also known as overpronation, or a high arch known as oversupination.
Plantar fasciitis afflicts up to 10 per cent of the adult population over the course of a lifetime, and accounts for 15 per cent of all foot complaints requiring professional care. It is common in people with a high body mass index, pregnant women and most commonly, runners.
If you think that you have plantar fasciitis, there are a number of things that you can do to help reduce the pain.
1. Wear supportive shoes
Firstly, make sure that you are wearing a good supportive shoe. As almost 70 per cent of the population overpronate when they stand, walk and run, it is important to ensure that you have adequate arch support in your shoe. It may be necessary to have your gait assessed properly in order to determine if overpronation or oversupination is occurring.
2. Try soft tissue massages
Secondly, using a golf ball on the soft tissue on the sole of the foot can help to release tension in the plantar fascia. Sit with the golf ball directly under the foot, and slowly roll the ball on your sole using increasing pressure as you lean into it. Do this first thing in the morning before you take your first step, and this will help to reduce the pain.
3. Try these stretches
Thirdly, it is important to ensure good flexibility of the calf muscles to allow adequate mobility in the ankle joint. Lean into a wall while keeping your heel firmly on the ground and keep your knee straight. You should feel the pull behind your knee. It is important to keep your spine parallel with the wall to get the most benefit from the stretch. To lengthen the deeper muscles of the leg do the same stretch but now bend your knee. You should feel the pull closer to your ankle now. Hold each stretch for 30 to 40 seconds and repeat three to five times on each leg.
These tips will help to reduce the strain on the plantar fascia by supporting the arch, loosening the tension along the sole of the foot, and improving the mobility of the ankle joint. If after using these tips you still have foot or heel pain, you may require custom orthotics and/or manual therapy techniques aimed at further reducing plantar fascia tension and improving joint mobility. Consult your health care provider if the symptoms persist beyond two weeks.