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Walking Over Hot Coals: Plantar Fasciitis; what is it and how to prevent it.

Ever have stabbing pain starting in your heel and spreading into the bottom of your feet?  Is that pain worst early in the morning, or as the day wears on? Did it occur out of nowhere, and was not associated with any type of fall or injury? You may have a disorder called plantar fasciitis. Sounds serious right? Or maybe it sounds like a certain species of insect. Plantar fasciitis is serious in that although it is not life threatening, it can severely limit your daily activity by keeping you off your feet. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of a fibrous tissue band called fascia that attaches to your heel and spreads to cover the entire bottom of your foot. Due to various causes, this fascia becomes inflamed, tightens and “knots” up, often feeling as if you are walking over hot coals.

So what can lead to plantar fasciitis? There is no 1 cause, but many factors that make a person more at risk. First, it is more common in women than men. It is often accompanied with tight calf muscles (or heel cord) and/or bone spurs on your heel (may be the cause or result of the fasciitis). Another big contributor is flat feet often associated with a lifetime of poor footwear, like sandals or high heels. Another risk factor is poor or inefficient walking mechanics

So how do you treat it. The best way to manage plantar fasciitis is to catch it early by identifying the symptoms and treating it. Plantar fasciitis has a nasty way of reoccurring if not managed properly. Below are techniques to manage or treat symptoms.

  • Stretch your calves (see below)             

Hold 30 sec to 1 min each side at least 2x a day.

  • Wear supportive shoes or get a shoe insert with arch support: If you plan to be on your feet for longer periods of time, wear supportive shoes like sneakers or at least sandals with arch support. For extra arch support, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg, you can start with an insert from your local pharmacy. Depending on how severe it is, you may need to see your podiatrist for more specialized inserts. 
  • Massage the bottom of your foot: You can do this with a golf or tennis ball, or better yet a frozen water bottle. While sitting press into and roll the ball/bottle underfoot. Honestly, this may be painful initially, but it will fell great afterwards.
  • Fix your walking mechanics: Go to a physical therapist who is a movement specialist, they will be able to assess and guide you in the correct exercises/movements to improve your walking. By improving your walking mechanics you will have less stress on the bottom of your foot
  • See a doctor/podiatrist. If pain does not abate with self managing (techniques 1-4). Contact your physician who can help reduce the inflammation medically. This coupled with physical therapy will be able to get rid of your pain.

In the early stages of plantar fasciitis, you may be able to manage your symptoms yourself. However if symptoms continue and you find yourself avoiding or dreading activities you enjoy because of the pain, see your family doctor or physical therapist to help you on the right track.

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