In our Elmhurst podiatry practice, we spend a lot of time treating the heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis. Fortunately, we have great success in providing our patients with relief. But what if we didn’t have to do so? What if patients could prevent this condition from developing? Here’s the good news: often, prevention is possible. Read on to learn more about this painful condition, and the steps you can take to stop discomfort before it starts.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a tendon that runs along the base of your foot, between your metatarsal bones and heel bone. Your plantar fascia has a very important job: it gives your foot stability, especially when you run, and it maintains the height of your arch, preventing it from collapsing and leaving you with a flat foot.
Because your plantar fascia does so much, it’s under a lot of pressure. And if that pressure rises too high, it can overstretch your tendon, causing it to become inflamed. Depending on how inflamed your tendon becomes, or how long the condition is left untreated, you may experience mild to debilitating levels of heel pain.
So now you know the whys of plantar fasciitis—let’s explore the ways in which we can keep tendon inflammation from developing.
How to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
When it comes to plantar fasciitis prevention, there are two separate but equal approaches you must take: stretching and strengthening. In other words, you need to release pressure from the tendon by stretching it out after exertion. But you also need to strengthen the surrounding muscles, so they absorb more of the impacts hitting your feet, taking more pressure off of your plantar fascia.
Exercises and Stretches to Prevent Heel Pain
One easy place to start your plantar fasciitis prevention routine? Circling your feet! This motion can build up ankle strength while also providing the top of your foot with a nice stretch. Afterwards, to stretch and massage the bottom of your feet, try rolling both soles over the surface of a gently-spiked hedgehog ball.
To strengthen the muscles of your calves, stand on a step, allowing your heels to hand over its ledge. Lower your heels below the level of the step, then push yourself up with the force of your calves until you are standing on your toes. Work up to three sets of 10-12 raises.
Afterward, try stretching your feet. Standing directly in front of a wall, and press your toes up against the wall, off the floor, while the rest your foot rests flat on the floor’s surface. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds, and repeat several times.
Now, it’s time to strengthen those arch muscles. Begin by placing a towel on the floor and sit down beside it. Grab the towel with your toes and use them to pull the towel toward you. After the strengthening move, get back to the stretch. While sitting, reach for and grab your toes, gently pulling them toward you until your arch experiences a stretch. Depending on your flexibility, you may need to bend your knees.
Finally, it’s important to give your leg and feet muscles a break by mixing more strenuous exercises like running with lower impact activities like swimming or yoga. And, even more importantly, don’t ignore twinges of heel pain—even with preventative measures, your plantar fascia may become inflamed. If that happens, don’t panic; just come and see our podiatrists as soon as you can. The earlier you begin treating heel pain, the better your outcome will be—and with less invasive treatment options!