Plantar fasciitis is typically self-limiting, meaning that it will often go away on its own. However, treatment can speed up recovery time and prevent the condition from getting worse.
Doctors usually recommend taking a multi-pronged approach to treating plantar fasciitis. For example, a patient who jogs may be advised to cut back on weekly mileage, change running shoes, and commit to a new stretching routine.
Initial treatments for plantar fasciitis do not involve injections or surgery. Patients initiate some treatments, such as rest and stretching, on their own, while others should be done under a doctor’s supervision.
- Sit in a chair and with feet flat on the ground, then place a tennis ball under the affected foot. Using gentle pressure, roll the tennis ball back and forth under the foot.
- Stand 18 inches away from a wall with feet about 6 inches apart and place hands against the wall, at shoulder height. Keep feet flat on the floor and lean into the wall until the stretch is felt in the Achilles tendon and calf muscles.
- Sit on the floor with legs straight in front. Wrap a belt or exercise strap around the ball of the foot, and gently pull on the strap, forcing the foot to flex upward.
Rest. Patients are advised to cut back on jogging or other activities that keep them on their feet for an extended period of time. This decrease in activity usually only needs to last a week or two for plantar fascia to heal.
Better footwear. Comfortable shoes with soft soles and arch supports will place less strain on the plantar fascia. For some athletes, just changing running shoes can significantly ease plantar fascia pain.
Taping. A physical therapist can employ a number of different taping techniques to unload the plantar fascia, giving it a chance to heal.
Shoe inserts. Some shoes can be fitted with shoe inserts. A soft orthotic shoe insert may provide better support and put less strain on the plantar fascia.
Stretching. Plantar fasciitis is associated with less flexibility in the ankle, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles. Gentle stretching to improve flexibility can make the biomechanics of standing, walking, and jogging less stressful for the plantar fascia.
Commonly recommended stretches include the following:
Icing. Applying a cold-pack or bag of ice to bottom of the foot may provide pain relief from plantar fasciitis. Relief can also be found by rolling the bottom of the foot on a frozen plastic water bottle.
Shorter running strides. For runners, increasing the number of steps per mile—taking a shorter stride but increasing cadence to maintain speed—may reduce the stress on the plantar fascia even though there will be more steps per minute.5
Weight loss. Extra weight puts an increased strain on the plantar fascia tissue. Shedding excess pounds will lighten the load on the body’s musculoskeletal system, including the plantar fascia.
Night splints. These plastic casts are worn at night and keep the ankle flexed at 90 degrees. This prevents the plantar fascia from resting in a contracted position. (Understandably, many people find these splints difficult to sleep in.)
Massage. While it is not considered standard treatment, deep myofascial massage may promote blood flow and healing.
People with persistent, moderate to severe cases of plantar fasciitis may use these non-medical treatments in conjunction with medications, injections, or surgical treatments.
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Certain medications can ease pain and decrease inflammation from plantar fasciitis. Medications are not a cure for plantar fasciitis and should be used in conjunction with other treatments.
NSAIDs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used to reduce swelling and inflammation, and are recommended for patients experiencing moderate to severe pain. NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and cox-2 inhibitors.
Iontophoresis. This treatment uses a mild electrical current to administer an anti-inflammatory medicine (e.g. dexamethasone) to the sore tissues.6 Iontophoresis may be recommended to patients with plantar fasciitis who can't tolerate or want to avoid injections.
If non-medical treatments and medications do not provide relief from plantar fasciitis, patients may consider injections.
- Wellenkotter J, Kernozek TW, Meardon S, Suchomel T. The Effects of Running Cadence Manipulation on Plantar Loading in Healthy Runners. Int J Sports Med. 2014 Mar 4. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 24595812.
- Rothschild B. Mechanical solution for a mechanical problem: Tennis elbow. World J Orthop. 2013 Jul 18;4(3):103-6. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v4.i3.103. Print 2013 Jul 18. PubMed PMID: 23878775; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3717240.