One of the most common foot problems we see—especially among active individuals—is heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis. What, you may be asking, is plantar fasciitis? It’s a common condition that develops when you get inflammation in your plantar fascia, a thick band of connective tissue that connects your heels to your toes.
And where does that inflammation come from? Typically, activities like running or dancing will leave you with tight calf muscles. Those muscles then tighten up, pulling at your plantar fascia, and causing it to stretch or even develop small tears. Other potential causes of heel pain include:
- A sudden increase in your physical activity level
- Flat feet
- High arches
- Weight gain
- Improper foot gear
Once irritated, your inflamed plantar fascia will leave you with heel pain that, left untreated, will get worse and worse. It may even become debilitating.
Thankfully, you don’t have to let things get to that point. Not only do we offer effective, minimally-invasive treatments for heel pain at our Elmhurst podiatry practice, but we can also help you avoid this condition in the first place! Just keep reading for our smart ways to protect your heels from plantar fasciitis.
Four Hacks for Preventing Heel Pain
If your anatomy, activity level or current weight are upping your risk for plantar fasciitis, you’ll definitely want to try these moves. But even if you’re not at increased risk for heel pain, taking any one of these measures will help you walk more comfortably.
- Stretch and strengthen: As we mentioned earlier, tight muscles can pull at your plantar fascia, so stretching is important in preventing heel pain. It’s especially important to focus on the muscles in your legs, like your calves and hamstrings. Of course, any stretch you pick is great, but certain moves will be particularly effective at fighting off heel pain. Try:
- Grabbing for your toes and gently stretching them back towards your legs.
- Freeze a water bottle, then gently roll it up and down your foot, putting gentle pressure on the bottle. You can also try this move using a tennis ball instead.
- Place marbles or other small objects on the grounds, then try to pick them up just by using your toes.
This combination of stretching out your tight muscles and strengthening your arch will take pressure off your plantar fascia. And that will lower your risk of developing the heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis.
- Switch Up Your Socks: If you want to take the pressure off your plantar fascia, especially while you exercise, consider investing in a few pairs of supportive socks. Designed to deliver gentle compression to your arches, these socks improve blood flow to your arches and provide them with support that goes beyond what your shoe alone provides. Together, the support and additional blood flow can help combat any inflammation in the area, reducing your risk of developing heel pain.
- Take a break: If you experience any sort of foot or heel pain during or right after you exercise, take the next day off. If problems are more than a one-time thing, up that rest period to at least a week. And even if you’re not experiencing any kind of pain, be wise when you exercise. If you’re looking to add distance or speed to your runs, build up gradually so your body has time to adjust to the new pressure. And be sure to mix up your cardio and include cross-training as part of your workout program. That way, you’ll avoid over-tasking one part of your body. And you’ll lower your risk of tweaking your plantar fascia and developing persistent problems.
- When in doubt, just chill out: If you suspect that your plantar fascia is already inflamed, reach for the ice. Applying a cold compress to the area will fight off inflammation and instantly tamp down your pain levels. Don’t have an ice pack? No problem! Just grab a thin towel and wrap it around a few ice cubes. Next, apply the compress to your pain spots for up to 20 minutes, two to three times a day. If you start this therapy early, and work our other tips, you may be able to avoid a drawn out battle with heel pain.
If, however, home prevention and treatment aren’t working, and your heels still hurt, you’ll need to get into your podiatrist’s office. Just don’t delay: the longer you wait to seek treatment for heel pain, the longer and more involved your recovery process will be.