Ever suffer from painful feet as you step out of bed in the morning? Read on to find out more about this common complaint.
Some mornings, you step out of bed and out of the blue, are hit with a terrible pain all along the arch, or heel, of one or both feet. If you’ve ever hobbled through this, you have no doubt read about a condition plantar fasciitis. A common description podiatrists hear from patients is that it feels as if “you’re walking on broken glass”.
Plantar fasciitis arises from pain in the ligament that connects your heel bone to your toe bone. This plantar fascia ligament is “shock-absorbing” strip, which supports your arch.
Tiny tears can occur in the fascia from too much pressure over a prolonged period. It can also become inflamed, like most ligaments, with repeated use. This can cause localised, sharp heel or foot pain.
Depending on the specific strain, you either have less pain after more movement, or increasing pain with more movement – specifically with stair climbing or standing for long periods.
Common Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
Because the plantar fascia is a ligament, it is susceptible to overuse injuries, just like any other ligament. This is especially true as we age, and plantar fasciitis complaints do tend to increase from approximately 40 years old.
Exercise that puts stress on your heel – running, soccer, net- or basketball, dancing etc. can contribute to it starting far earlier.
Poor posture and biomechanical irregularities – for example, bad foot placement habits; flat feet; high arches mean that you do not distribute your weight evenly when moving, which can cause stress in different places on the plantar fascia ligament. Coupled with regular activity, this stress can become pronounced and result in injury.
Weight can significantly affect plantar fasciitis – from doing activities that are heavy weight bearing, to being pregnant, or being above a healthy BMI – all these can add additional strain.
Hard surfaces also tend to amplify the pain.
What Can You Do?
For immediate relief from acute pain, taking an over the counter anti-inflammatory can help – ibuprofen is ideal, if suitable for you personally.
Inflammation usually responds well to ice, so place an ice pack on the area for 20 minutes x 4 times a day. For some people, alternating heat with cold provides better results – 20 minutes of cold, followed by 20 minutes of heat x 4 times per day. Freezing a water bottle to roll under the foot works effectively.
Rest is always a good solution for strains of any part of our body. Switching to non weight-bearing exercise – swimming or cycling, for example – can help the ligament to heal if overuse from exercise inflames your plantar fascia ligament. It is key to return to your regular activities slowly, to avoid a re-occurrence. Whilst resting, stretch your toes and calves a few times a day. The first set of stretches should be before getting up in the morning, to warm up the ligament.
Investing in the best sports shoes you can afford with proper arch support, good mid-foot stability, and a cushioned sole is essential. Your podiatrist can give advice on the best options for your foot type.
Custom-made orthotics are game-changes for some people with plantar fasciitis, so do discuss this option with your podiatrist too.
Generally, treatment for plantar fasciitis is conservative – that is, surgical options are only ever very rarely considered – and the key is to continue with regular stretches, icing, pain relief and limit contra-indicated activities whilst you are healing. If weight loss is a contributing factor, this should also be considered.
It does take time to recover fully from plantar fasciitis, so a consistent approach is necessary.
For more information and a biomechanical assessment, please contact us at Free Your Feet Podiatry today.
Call us on (02) 9680 3646.
A medical referral is not required to visit a podiatrist.