13 Things I'm Doing to Alleviate Plantar Fasciitis
I've been dealing with plantar fasciitis (and, to a lesser degree, posterior tibial tendonitis) in my left heel for the last two years. The symptoms have been on and off; sometimes I'm completely free of them, and other times I can barely walk, let alone run (my favorite pastime).
I've done countless mobility and strength exercises, taken pills and potions, had scores of physical therapy treatments, dry needling, compression socks, standing on one leg while holding a kettlebell out from my body with the opposite arm (seriously), slept for night after night with the most uncomfortable sock of all time, you name it. I think I'm now a full-fledged expert in the affliction.
Some things just don't seem to work, while others help to one degree or another. Following is a list of the thirteen items, in no particular order, I have found most useful in alleviating my plantar fasciitis symptoms.
Note: I'm the furthest thing from a doctor. Talk to yours before entering into a treatment protocol.
1. Rest your foot (to a point).
This is necessary at the outset of symptoms, and when symptoms have resurfaced after being dormant. However, rest alone will likely not get rid of the inflammation; it'll only allow it to calm down for awhile. After that, you have to train your muscles to work correctly so the issue doesn't return.
2. Walk around barefoot (sometimes).
Part of the reason the plantar fascia is inflamed is that it is overworking to compensate for weak activation of muscles further up the chain (glutes/hips, calves, mostly). Walking barefoot and/or wearing zero-drop shoes will help force those other muscles to activate. This approach is only recommended if you are at a place where the symptoms are minimal and healing has been taking place. Otherwise, you're just causing more damage.
3. Stand one-legged on a ledge or step, bend your knee, and stand on your toes.
This might be the one exercise with the most bang for the buck, at least for me. It's a deep stretch, hitting the Achilles and soleus pretty hard, so if you try it enter it with caution. If you're feeling strong, do calf raises in this position.
Here's a video that does a good job demonstrating this exercise and stretch:
4. When sitting, keep your legs at a 90-degree angle.
In other words, never cross your legs! Doing so causes a terrible strain on your hips, knees, and back. Do it long enough and it will affect your gait, which will force your foot to work in ways it wasn't intended to.
Better yet: Stand instead of sit.
5. Sleep really well.
This is an obvious solution for so many ailments, and plantar fasciitis is no exception. Getting great sleep will allow healing to take place overnight.
6. Take two minutes to stretch your plantar fascia when you first wake up.
Heal pain on the first steps in the morning is the most classic symptom of plantar fasciitis. This is because the fascia is relaxed overnight, and healing is taking place. However, when you take that first step, the fascia is not warmed up and micro tears will occur with those first steps (hence the pain). Take two minutes in bed to stretch your toes back and massage the fascia with your fingers before standing up. This will help alleviate the pain.
7. Use arch support insoles (sometimes).
I have mixed feelings about insoles. I can't say they have done a lot for me. However, they are often the first thing a doctor, podiatrist, or physical therapist will recommend for treatment because the arch support will help take stress off the fascia. That makes sense. However, you can only baby it for so long. When the symptoms subside, get back to barefoot walking. Otherwise, your muscles will just get weak and the condition will return.
8. Deep massage the plantar fascia, ankle, and calf muscles.
This one is one of my favorites, as it provides instant relief.
I use three tools: A Hypervolt massager, a foam roller (for the calves), and a small, firm ball that I use to dig deep into my muscles. Works like a charm.
9. Lots and lots and lots of calf stretches.
I do calf stretches every day. These consist of standing straight-leg stretches with hands on a wall and standing bent-knee stretches with hands on a wall. Do each of these stretches for 30-60 seconds each up to five times a day.
10. Lots and lots and lots of gluteus medius exercises.
Weak gluteus medius muscles (on the side of your hips) is a common condition because we sit all day. People who walk or run a lot tend to have stronger glute medius muscles. When these muscles are weak, it can potentially cause overpronation with can irritate the plantar fascia over time. Strengthen your hip muscles for a better, strong gait, and to take the heat off of your feet from doing all the work.
11. Learn to stand steady on one foot for as long as possible.
I do this every day for one minute. I could do it longer if I had the patience. This exercise will improve your balance and help strengthen your foot muscles.
12. ASTYM therapy.
This is a brilliant intervention my physical therapist uses to help muscle recovery. She uses various-sized tools to 'scrape' my muscles and tendons to help improve blood circulation and increase recovery. It doesn't always feel pleasant, but it helps.
13. Dry needling.
Tight calf muscles, including knots in some spots, are a contributor to my plantar fascia issues. Dry needling helps to loosen up those knots, which in turn releases the strain on my plantar fascia.