As your foot hits the floor when you get up in the morning, you feel a sharp pain on the bottom of your heel, just behind the foot's arch. This is the all-too-familiar sign of plantar fasciitis.
The plantar fascia is a fibrous piece of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot and helps maintain its stability. As we walk or run, it lengthens and contracts.
But this constant movement can cause the plantar fascia to develop tiny tears or become inflamed, causing plantar fasciitis. This is especially true for activities that activate the plantar fascia frequently, like running.
Fortunately, plantar fasciitis often resolves on its own. But there are several ways you can ease pain and speed recovery as well. Here are 7 strategies you can use to help alleviate plantar fasciitis symptoms:
1. Stay off your feet.
Resting the plantar fascia allows inflammation to go down and mini-tears to heal. This can happen within a week or two.
2. Stretch it out.
There are stretching exercises that can help ease the pain of plantar fasciitis, including the following:
- While seated, roll a tennis ball back and forth under your foot.
- Stand about 1½ feet from a wall with your hands on the wall. Keep your feet flat on the floor and lean forward until you can feel the stretch in your calves.
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you and a belt or exercise band wrapped around the ball of your foot. Pull back gently on the belt/band to stretch and flex the foot.
3. Ice it.
An ice pack on the bottom of the foot can relieve pain. Or try rolling a frozen water bottle under your foot to ice and massage it at the same time.
4. Rethink your shoes.
Sometimes simply switching shoes can ease plantar fasciitis. Or try adding orthotic shoe inserts to support the arch of your foot. These same tips can help if you have shin splints.
5. Tape by day, splint by night.
Some taping configurations may help to relieve pain while running; ask a physical therapist for suggestions. You can also use splints to hold your feet in position at night, although these may make it harder to sleep.
6. Change your stride.
Sometimes runners can lessen the strain on their plantar fascia by shortening their stride. This may help even though it entails more footfalls to maintain your speed.
7. Shed a few pounds.
Being overweight can put extra strain on the plantar fascia, so relief may come if you lose some weight.
Pain relieving medications like aspirin and NSAIDs can also be used to manage pain, but this does not treat the cause of plantar fasciitis and shouldn't be the only treatment method used.
If persistent or severe plantar fasciitis doesn't improve with the tactics mentioned above, there are some other treatment options that can help, including injections, shock wave therapy, or even surgery.