What is plantar fasciitis?
If you’re experiencing pain and tenderness in the ligament that runs from the front of your feet to the end of your heels, chances are you have succumbed to a condition called plantar fasciitis.
Otherwise referred to as Policeman’s Heel, this common but rather uncomfortable ailment occurs when your plantar fascia (the ligaments in question) start to thicken because they have become damaged or simply worn over time.
You know you’re suffering a bout of plantar fasciitis when the pain appears to be worse first thing in the morning, and you notice a burning sensation creeping back into your feet when you stand up after being sedentary for a period of time.
Plantar fasciitis can be caused by a number of factors. It’s most often seen in people who are between 40 and 60 years of age, but that’s not to say you can’t fall victim to it if you’re younger. You’ve got a higher chance of damaging your plantar fascia if:
- You are overweight
- You work in a physically demanding job (for example, as a waiter or a shop assistant)
- You have flat feet or high arches
- You have an abnormal walking pattern
- You’re a keen runner, or you regularly take part in other kinds of high-impact exercise
How can you combat the symptoms of the condition?
If left untreated, the discomfort caused by plantar fasciitis could begin to affect your mobility. That’s why it’s so important to nip symptoms in the bud as soon as they start to appear.
3 easy exercises to try
Certain exercises will relieve the pain and strengthen the ligaments. Carry out the following three basic exercises every day, and you should start to see improvements:
- Calf stretches
Simple calf stretches will keep your lower limbs supple and in better shape.
Straighten your right knee and make sure your right knee is on the ground. Bend your leg forward gently, until you can feel a stretch in your calf muscles. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
- Plantar fascia stretches
It may seem counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to combat pain in your tendon/ligaments is to stretch them out as often as you can!
Grab a foam roller, then take a seat. (If you don’t have a roller to hand, a water bottle or a soft drink can will work just as well). Roll the arch of your foot back and forth over the instrument for about 60 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
- Toe extensions
This one is really simple, but very effective.
While seated in a straight and upright position, place a tea towel on the floor in front of you. At this point, your feet should be hip width apart. Place one of your feet on the towel, then, curling your toes, pull the towel towards your heel. Once you’ve curled as far as you can, extend your toes to push the towel back away from you.
What else can be done?
If you’re seeing some improvements from carrying out these exercises but you’re keen to speed up your recovery time, there are plenty of other remedies for plantar fasciitis.
First up, apply ice to the area for around 15 minutes several times a day. This will reduce the thickening of the ligaments and take away some of the discomfort.
Next, we’d recommend trying orthotic insoles, which will take some of the pressure off your feet by cushioning the arch. The best insoles for plantar fasciitis are those that can be customised to provide the right level of support. Professionally designed insoles won’t need to be ‘worn in’; they will feel comfortable as soon as you insert them into your shoe, and you should feel a noticeable difference in the pain you’re feeling.
Next, try night splints. When applied correctly, these will stretch out your calf and the arch of your foot overnight. They can take some getting used to, but we promise the results will be worth it!
If plantar fasciitis pain is still proving to be a problem for you, it could be worth seeking the advice of a qualified physical therapist, who will be able to show you a wider range of exercises that are specifically for sufferers of plantar fasciitis. It is also possible to inject steroids into the affected area in order to provide temporary pain relief, but because these injections can damage the ligaments over time, this is by no means a long-term solution.
If you feel you need professional help in managing the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, don’t hesitate to speak to your GP, who will be able to prescribe the best course of action for you based on the severity of your symptoms and the impact the condition is having on your everyday life.