The Pain- Burning or aching pain over the heel or sole of the foot. Typically people state the pain is worse when they get out of bed in the morning and often feels like they are “walking on rocks”. This pain is mainly brought on by weight bearing activities (walking, jogging, hiking, and standing). Some people become acutely aware of this when they lie down at night.
The Cause– Plantar fasciitis is caused by shortening and irritation of the plantar fascia. This a long thick piece of tissue that goes from your heel bone to the forefoot. Typical boomer issues are the ultimate cause of plantar fasciitis. Weight gain plays a large role in this. Other factors include ankles and weak foot muscles. Wearing high heels can also contribute to this. Sudden increases in standing and walking time can also be culprits.
The Basic Stretch- Heel cord/ plantar fascia stretches. The heel cord is that ropey feeling cord connecting your heel to your calf muscles. The plantar fascia is the tissue connecting the bottom of your heel (often called “heel spurs”) to the balls of your feet. To stretch both areas, first take off your shoes. Then place the ball of your foot on a step and let one heel drop off the step. Keep your other FULL foot on the step. You can bend the other knee slightly if you need to get a good stretch on your calf muscles. Hold for a count of sixty. Repeat with the other leg. Next lean forward on level ground with the arms extended at shoulder level placed against a wall. Place one foot 1-2 feet behind you with your heel off the floor. Press your heel toward the ground stretching at the toes. You should feel a good stretch on the heel and bottom of your foot. Reposition if necessary.
The Basic Strengthening Exercise- Towel curls. Pick up a towel with your toes. Do this 15 times. Repeat.
Feel Good Move- When things are really bad roll the bottom of your foot across a frozen can of orange juice. Trust me it works. However, if you wake up and feel like you are walking on rocks then you may need something more than just exercises. The plantar fasciitis night time splint will give gentle stretching to your feet all night long. This is much longer than you can do on your own.
Bracing/ Splints- I frequently recommend heel cups or an in shoe orthosis to help with symptoms. If you are on your feet all day and need extra heel cushioning then you should try the Silipos heel pads.
They will give extra cushioning for those tender heels. They can also be used with the night splint (read “Feel Good Move,” above) for maximum benefit.
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When to Worry- If things do not improve in 4-6 weeks. Burning pain in the feet can also mean a problem like polyneuropathy which is a nerve problem frequently seen in people with diabetes and thyroid disorder. If you have one of these conditions please get checked out by your doctor. If symptoms persist you may need a steroid injection into the heel which can really speed up recovery. If you have any bumps or lumps in your foot you may have a painful plantar wart. These usually have to be cut out (surgically removed) although some swear by a banana peel taped over the wart.
Other things- If your running/walking/hiking shoes are over six months old please get some new ones. I say this a lot but it often really fixes things.