Of all the conditions I treat as a physical therapist, plantar fasciitis is one of the hardest. It’s hard because plantar fasciitis can be really painful and disabling. Plantar fasciitis can take longer to heal than say a muscle strain. The very good news is that with the right treatment, plantar fasciitis gets better and you will have a much clearer picture of why it occurred in the first place.

Plantar fasciitis affects about 10% of Americans, accounting for 11% of running injuries and 15% of foot-related pain at doctor visits. About 1 million patient visits each year are due to plantar fasciitis. This blog will outline how to heal from plantar fasciitis naturally, and provide ways to cure plantar fasciitis as well as tips for managing plantar fasciitis in the long term.

So, what is plantar fasciitis anyway?

It’s hard to say and even harder to spell. To the left is a diagram of the plantar fascia. See how the plantar fascia attaches at your heel and then fans out to each of your five toes? It’s a pretty cool design. The plantar fascia provides support to the bottom of our feet when we walk, stand or run. Notice how it’s a grey-white color. It has limited blood supply. Plantar fascia is more like a ligament than a muscle and provides passive support to the sole of the foot, including the arch.

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia. This occurs when TOO much force goes through the plantar fascia, too often. Typically, the plantar fascia becomes inflamed because there are problems somewhere else like at the knee, hip, ankle or lower back. Because plantar fascia does not contract like a muscle, it is affected by how the rest of the body is working (or not working) when the foot hits the ground.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

  1. The first step out of bed each morning is exquisitely painful. This is the hallmark sign of active plantar fasciitis. The pain may be located at the heel, in the arch or simply in the sole of the foot when you take those first few steps in the morning.
  2. Tenderness when you touch your heel or the area around your heel is a sign you may have plantar fasciitis.

How to Heal Plantar Fasciitis

  1. Get an evaluation from a physical therapist who is trained in a regional interdependence model. This means the physical therapist understands how to identify the root causes in the body related to plantar fasciitis. Often the problems driving plantar fasciitis did not start in the plantar fascia itself. The fasciitis won’t go away until the root causes are identified.
  2. Unload your plantar fascia. Reduce running, hiking and walking for fitness. Obtain more supportive footwear that includes excellent arch support. If needed, try Super Feet (over-the-counter) or another orthotics to support the arch.
  3. Consider wearing a night splint that stretches the plantar fascia all night.
  4. Stretch and ice plantar fascia daily.

The Best Cure for Plantar Fasciitis is Prevention

running shoes and insertsHere are the best prevention tips for plantar fasciitis:

  1. Wear supportive footwear, especially if you have a high arch foot.
  2. Keep your core, your gluteals, your hamstrings, your gastrocs, and your foot intrinsic muscles strong and flexible.
  3. See a physical therapist if you plan to do a marathon, or place any other new fitness demands on your body.
  4. Train smart with a graded program adding no more than 10% per week in total time or intensity to your workouts or running programs.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, plantar fasciitis is one of the hardest and most stubborn conditions I treat as a physical therapist. Prevention truly is the best cure. If you do find yourself with symptoms of plantar fasciitis, call a physical therapist as soon as possible. If you live in the Portland, Oregon area, contact Life’s Work Physical Therapy at 503-295-2585 or visit www.lifesworkpt.com. If you live outside the Portland area, please refer to my previous blog on How to Find a Good PT and visit apta.org to locate a great physical therapist in your area.

With treatment, your plantar fasciitis will heal and you will be able to return to all the activities that you love. Take the first step and call a physical therapist.

Best of luck!

Sandra Stryker, PT, MPT, COMT, FAAOMPT