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Walking, running, and jumping can put a lot of pressure on the feet. Although the feet are sturdy and can handle large amounts of force, the pressure can build, and heel pain can develop.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, running causes an impact around three times the weight of a person.
A few different factors can lead to heel pain, but one of the most common causes is plantar fasciitis.
This article explores treatments and exercise to help reduce heel pain, as well as the different causes.
Self-care treatments can help reduce the pain and inflammation linked to plantar fasciitis.
In some cases, a person might only require home treatment to provide all necessary relief.
The following self-care treatments can help:
Home treatment options
The following treatments are available to self-administer at home:
- Ice: Apply ice three or four times a day for about 15 minutes at a time. Applying ice directly to the skin can be uncomfortable. People should instead wrap an ice pack in a damp towel and place it on the heel.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs may also help reduce discomfort and inflammation. Ibuprofen is an NSAID available for purchase online.
- Orthotics: Foot orthotics are custom foot supports. A person places them in the shoes. Orthotics can support the arch, which helps evenly distribute the weight placed on the heel when a person walks. Arch supports are available for purchase over the counter or online, or a physician can prescribe custom-fitted ones.
- Splint: Wearing a splint at night might also help. The splint stretches the arch and calf, and may decrease discomfort.
- Switching activities: It might also be helpful for people to switch from high-impact activities, such as running, to exercise that is easier on the heel. Low-impact options include swimming and walking.
Medical treatment options
Although home treatments can be enough to decrease heel pain from plantar fasciitis, they might not always have the desired effect.
If home treatment is not successful, a doctor might recommend additional medical treatments, such as:
- Steroid injections: When heel pain persists, steroid injections are an option. The doctor injects an anti-inflammatory steroid medication into the heel. Frequent steroid injections can weaken the fascia, so injections cannot be given too frequently.
- Surgery: This can be a possible last resort. There are several different surgical procedures for reducing heel pain. For example, a procedure called a plantar fascia release involves partially cutting the fascia to reduce the tension of the tissue.
Plantar fasciitis can disrupt workout routines.
Continuing to partake in certain activities can make heel pain worse, but remaining idle and avoiding exercise is not beneficial.
Exercise is still possible when dealing with plantar fasciitis. The key is to avoid activities that place a lot of force on the heel.
People should consider activities that do not usually involve heel impact, such as rowing, swimming, and lifting weights.
Stretches for plantar fasciitis
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, certain stretches can help reduce heel pain and prevent plantar fasciitis from reoccurring.
People who have plantar fasciitis pain in the morning might want to carry out the following stretches as soon as they wake up.
Seated Fascia Stretch
- Sit in a cross-legged position at the end of the bed or a chair.
- Place the affected foot over the knee of the other leg.
- Grab the heel of the painful foot with one hand and the toes with the other hand.
- Gently pull up on the toes, while at the same time pulling up on the heel. Bending the toes up stretches the fascia.
- Bending the ankle up stretches the Achilles tendon, which may help decrease pain.
- Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds.
- Relax the foot and repeat 10 to 20 times. If both feet are experiencing pain, repeat the exercise on the other foot.
Seated Ankle Pumps
- Sitting in a chair, hold the leg out straight and flex and extend at the ankle joint.
- This exercise stretches both the fascia and the calf muscle.
- Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times on each foot.
Standing Calf Stretch
- Place both hands on a wall, keep the back leg straight, and place the heel down.
- Pull the hips forward towards the wall until the stretch is felt in the back of the lower leg.
- Hold for 10 seconds and repeat several times.
- If the heel on the opposite leg hurts, repeat the stretch on that leg too.
The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs underneath the soles of the feet. It connects the heel bones to the front of the feet and also supports the arch.
The fascia normally serves as a shock absorber, but repeated stress to the heel can lead to small tears in the tissue. This tissue damage causes inflammation in the fascia known as plantar fasciitis.
There are a few different causes of plantar fasciitis. The ligament can become inflamed due to repeated force from high-impact activities and sports that involve a lot of jumping. Wearing high heels may also place stress on the fascia.
Having a job that requires a lot of standing or walking increases the chances of developing the condition. People with flat feet may also be more likely to develop plantar fasciitis. Flat feet can cause an uneven distribution of weight when someone walks, which puts added stress and pressure on the fascia.
Stretching can be helpful in decreasing the symptoms of plantar fasciitis and also preventing the condition from developing. In addition to stretching, a few steps might help prevent plantar fasciitis.
People can start by wearing the right shoes. Avoid high heels as they can place stress on the heel. Shoes with a moderate heel and sturdy arch support can help.
Be sure to always wear footwear and avoid being barefoot for long stretches of time. The lack of support could lead to heel pain.
Athletic shoes provide good support and cushion the feet. A 2011 study suggests that running or athletic shoes should be replaced every 500 miles. Start exercise slowly and gradually increase intensity to prevent plantar fasciitis.
The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain in the heel and sometimes the arch of the foot.
The pain usually starts mild, and people often feel it when stepping out of bed in the morning, as well as after sitting for a long period. Although pain levels can vary, discomfort often decreases after walking around for a while.
The pain from plantar fasciitis can last a long time, and complications can develop. Continued inflammation of the fascia can lead to the development of scar tissue. This can make the condition harder to treat.
Plantar fasciitis can also cause pain elsewhere in the body. For example, when someone has heel pain, they might adjust the way they walk without realizing it.
Knee, hip, and back problems can develop due to changing body movements.
Can exercises and stretches help heal plantar fasciitis?
Yes. Plantar-fascia-specific stretching has been shown to improve symptoms on a long-term basis.
Exercises that strengthen the foot stabilizing muscles relieve the plantar fascia of pressure and can speed up healing time.Gregory Minnis, DPT Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.