Fix Your Plantar Fasciitis!

Back when I was running, I got plantar fasciitis. That’s not a surprise since plantar fasciitis can be caused by running and other high impact activities. I was extremely lucky, though, because with simple stretches and some good choices, I relieved my inflammation in a couple of weeks. I’m going to tell you what I did.

First, I need to tell you that I’m not a medical professional and that my opinions in no way should be taken as a substitute for professional medical help.

What is plantar fasciitis?

drawing of the plantar fascia

WebMD says, “The plantar fascia is the flat band of tissue (ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot. If you strain your plantar fascia, it gets weak, swollen, and irritated (inflamed). Then your heel or the bottom of your foot hurts when you stand or walk.” The suffix “-itis” means inflammation. So, technically, plantar fasciitis means inflammation of the plantar fascia.

How do I know if I have plantar fasciitis?

If you have pain on the bottom of your foot or in your heel, you could have plantar fasciitis. If you end up going to the doctor, the Mayo Clinic website says that the doctor will feel your foot to determine a diagnosis. Imaging such as x-rays are rarely done.

What can I do to fix my plantar fasciitis?

When I began working as a personal trainer, I was working for a colorful owner who had lived through Jane Fonda videos, the invention of The Step, and numerous painful trends. Even in her 60s, she still taught classes at her gym. Her motto was:  “Whoever said, ‘No pain, no gain’ had no brain.”

Unfortunately, that is not true when treating plantar fasciitis. This is the only time that I encourage my clients to work with the pain to try to create release. Frequently, some of the exercises can feel quite uncomfortable.

Aside from the usual suggestions of ice, rest, elevation, and ibuprofen, here are some exercises that I recommend:

  1. rolling a tennis ball under the footTennis balls. Tennis balls are great for myofascial release! By releasing the fascia (connective tissue), you can sometimes find release in the muscles. You may use the tennis balls under your foot or also under your calf. To use the tennis ball under your foot, simply place your foot on the ball and roll the ball back and forth. You may be standing or sitting for this exercise. To use the tennis ball under your calf, take a comfortable seat with your legs straight in front of you. Place the tennis ball at the top of your calf muscle. Be certain to avoid the knee area. Take deep breaths and relax. As you feel your calf relax, move the ball down your leg toward your foot about one inch at a time. I recommend doing both calves at the same time.
  2. Use a towel to flex your foot. Loop the towel around the ball of your foot. Alternate pressing the ball of the foot in to the towel, then have the towel help encourage your toes to point back toward you so your ankle is in flexion.
  3. foot scrunching towelScrunch a towel. This will build the intrinsic and supporting muscles of the foot. If your foot is inflamed, don’t do this right now. Wait until the inflamation is gone before you start strength exercises. To do this exercise, lay a towel on the floor in front of you. (Slick floors like wood or tile work better than carpet.) Stand with your heel toward the back of the towel. Make three creases in the towe with the first one being about an inch above your foot. Place the other two creases evenly in the remaining space.  Reach your toes forward, have them grab the towel, then scrunch it toward you. Repeat this until you either have the whole towel or your foot hates you.
  4. Ankle rolls. With plantarfasciitis, it is important to stretch the calf and strengthen the stabilizing muscles in the ankle and foot. Have a seat and look at the foot that will be working. As it moves around in a circle, make sure the sole of the foot stays facing away from you. Do not let the sole rotate so that it faces in toward the other foot or out away from the body. Also make sure that as the foot comes toward you, it comes as close toward you as it can, and as it moves away, it moves as far away as it can.
  5. Calf stretches. Stand up nice and tall with your feet together and parallel. Put a soft bend in the knees and send one foot back behind you. Connect your back foot’s heel to the floor. Make sure you have a nice, long spine. Then, draw your low belly to your spine and hinge forward as a single unit, moving from your hips through the top of your head. This shouldn’t be a big move, but it will probably be a big change in the intensity of your stretch.

For more information on plantar fasciitis, check out this website. It’s an article by another non-medical person such as myself. She has some other great activities to help!

If you’d like a video, here I am doing the videos I just described.

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Did these exercises help you? Let me know in the comments section below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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