An article by exercise physiologist, Jennifer Smallridge
Have you lost the spring in your step? Is pain in the sole of your foot or your heel getting you down? Plantar fasciitis (pronounced fashy-itis) is one of the most common conditions of the feet. Seeing a podiatrist is a one-stop shop for assessment, diagnosis and management of plantar fasciitis, but read on to discover the risk factors and some simple self-management tips to get you back on your feet.
What is the plantar fascia?
The plantar fascia is a large band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes. If it undergoes too much pressure or stretch, it can become inflamed and susceptible to small tears.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
A podiatrist may suspect plantar fasciitis if you present with the following:
- Pain in the arch of the foot and the heel region
- Pain that is worse first thing in the morning or after prolonged sitting
- Pain that improves after walking for a few minutes
- Pain after, but not during exercise
- Pain that develops slowly over time, or suddenly if there is an intense burst of activity, such as a hike.
What can increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis?
- Biomechanics of the foot: having a flat foot or a high arch
- Sudden increase in activity levels or taking up a new activity
- Having a high BMI, or sudden weight gain
- Having tight calf muscles
- Being on your feet for long periods of time
- Unsupportive, overly flexible footwear (such as thongs in summer!)
What can be done to help?
Getting started with a podiatrist is your best bet for stopping plantar fasciitis in its tracks. In the meantime, the following tips can help if you are experiencing pain in the heel or sole of your foot:
- Always wear supportive shoes, even around the house
- At the start of the day, use a heat pack or a warming massage cream to rub the calves and soles of the feet
- At the end of the day, pop a water bottle in the freezer and use it to roll the soles of your feet
- Consider swapping your walking for swimming or cycling to stay fit without overloading the soles of the feet.
Once the acute pain has settled, a graduated strengthening program is essential to prevent future re-aggravation. A podiatrist, physiotherapist, osteopath or exercise physiologist can give you guidance on this, and we consistently find that the people who feel better are the ones who do their exercises the most diligently!