By Michele Foley
Don’t ever underestimate how much happiness is connected to the health of your feet. It sounds a little silly, but as someone who has suffered from plantar fasciitis for years, foot pain has a way of taking away simple pleasures like hiking, running, or just walking down the street to grab some groceries.
For the unfamiliar, plantar fasciitis is a condition where the tissue running along your foot (from the heel through the arch to the toes) is inflamed. It can burn, throb, sting, and ache. On the best days you might get by without any symptoms and on the worst, every step will send shock through your body. Over the years, and several months of treatment with a physical therapist, my plantar fasciitis is more under control than ever. Yes, I had to give up running, and yes, I rarely ever wear anything with the words “high” or “heel” in it, but I’m back to hiking, hitting up my favorite HIIT classes, and backpacking for days on end. Hopefully this expert advice (tried and tested by me!) will help you in your own journey to pain-free walking.
- Ice is your friend: There are times when my plantar fasciitis can feel like someone is stabbing hot daggers repeatedly into my foot — it’s that painful. Pain is brought on because the ligament running along the arch of the foot has become irritated and swollen, and ice helps to slow down blood flow and relieve the pain. While it’s not treating the cause of plantar fasciitis, it gets me back on my feet again. Instead of an ice pack, I like to use a frozen water bottle since it’s easy to roll up and down the length of my foot.
- Stretch it out: Having tight calf muscles is one of the more common causes of plantar fasciitis; this lack of flexibility puts increased strain on your fascia. Keep calf muscles loose and long by stretching them out on a daily basis — especially after working out, wearing high heels, or long periods spent on your feet.
- Strengthen your feet: Another common cause of plantar fasciitis is overpronation, where the ankle rolls slightly inward when you walk or run. Overpronation causes more reliance on the big toe and inner portion of the foot, and this overuse can lead to plantar fasciitis. However, strengthening the muscles of the foot (as well as the calves) can help keep the arches strong and supported, preventing plantar fasciitis. As part of my home therapy, my physical therapist had me doing toe scrunches, single-leg deadlifts (done barefoot), and calf raises.
- Massage, massage, massage: Seeing a massage therapist on a regular basis has to be one of the best things I have ever done for my plantar fasciitis. To be clear, this is definitely not a relaxing spa appointment with oils or a Zen garden playlist. I see a bodywork specialist who focuses only on my feet, using a mix of methods like myofascial release technique (MRT), cupping, and active release techniques (ART). There have been times I’ve gone into a session barely able to walk from the pain and walked out of there like I had brand new feet — it’s been that good! I try to go in every few weeks, and to help offset the costs, I use funds from my flexible spending account (along with a prescription from my doctor).
- Store-bought remedies: While not a permanent solution, a little ibuprofen and the right pair of orthotics can go a long way. If you have insurance that covers a set of custom-made orthotics, it’s always best to go that route. For over-the-counter orthotics, I am a huge fan of ones from Lynco, which were recommended by my podiatrist. They give a good amount of arch support and aren’t too rigid on the feet.
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