Did you make yourself a promise to exercise more in 2014? If so, congratulations! Done right, exercise can make you feel good all over. But if you overdo, or forget to give your feet the comfort and support they need, that well-intentioned exercise can lead to some very painful problems.
One painful foot condition, know as plantar fasciitis sneaks up on you over time, then attacks with a sharp, stabbing pain in your arch and heel – particularly when you first get up out of bed. It is often only present in one foot, but may present itself in both feet when left untreated.
As the day wears on, the pain may get better. But it often comes back after you’ve been sitting for a while or in situations where you have to be on your feet for long periods of time.
WHY IT HURTS
Plantar Fasciitis is caused by repeated overstretching of the plantar fascia, a tough band of tissue that runs from your heel to your toes and serves as a shock absorber for your feet. This overstretching can lead to inflammation and even small tears in the plantar fascia.
Plantar fasciitis tends to develop gradually but unless you make changes to protect your feet it just keeps on getting worse, causing not only heel pain but arch pain and heel spurs as well.
WHO’S AT RISK?
Women and older people are more likely to experience plantar fasciitis, but there are a number of other things that can put you at risk, including:
- Overpronation. This basically means your arch drops and rolls inward with every step you take, thus stretching the plantar fascia. Also referred to as flat feet, it’s the most common cause of plantar fasciitis. However, having extremely high arches or faulty walking mechanics can cause problems as well.
- Shoes that don’t support the feet. Without proper support your feet take a beating whenever you walk. High heels are a problem too, because worn regularly they shorten the Achilles tendon and put added strain on the area around your heel.
- Certain exercise programs. Exercise is good for you, but activities like long distance running and dance aerobics that put lots of stress on heels can cause plantar fasciitis to flare up.
- Work that keeps you on your feet. Long hours standing or walking on hard floors mean added stress on your plantar fascia.
- Overweight. Extra pounds put extra stress on your feet.
TAKING STEPS TO END THE PAIN
Never try to “play through” the pain. Instead, switch to lower stress athletic activities like swimming or cycling.
Without proper care, plantar fasciitis can progress to the point where you are in pain whenever you stand or walk.
Fortunately there are things you can do to help relieve the pain and stress and let your foot start healing, including:
- Over-the-counter pain medications like Advil, Aleve, Motrin and others. These won’t solve the problem but can give some primary relief.
- Ice your heel and keep it up when you aren’t standing.
- Give your feet a rest. As much as possible, avoid activities like running or standing for long periods.
- Change your footwear. Select shoes that provide support and cushioning.
- Add a custom arch support to help spread your weight as you walk.
- Stretch. A physical therapist can show you exercises to stretch your Achilles tendon, plantar fascia and lower leg muscles.
- Use a night splint to keep your plantar fascia stretched and prevent morning pain.
- Lose excess weight. Lower weight means less pressure on your feet.
Have you had experiences with plantar fasciitis? How did you relieve the pain? Let us know below.