By Michelle Ziegler, MPT, physical therapist at The Rehabilitation Center in Boone.
As the weather cools and the leaves change into their colorful autumn apparel, it is likely most of us are spending more time on our feet — hiking to enjoy the outdoors and keeping up our exercise routines. To conserve resources, we are unlikely to spend money on new shoes. If your feet are starting to tell the story of the wear and tear you’ve been putting on them, and you’re experiencing pain in the heel, arch or mid foot, plantar fasciitis could be the culprit.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis accounts for 5 to 10% of all running injuries.¹-² Factors which predispose people include low and high arches, weakness of the foot, ankle and hips, diabetes, increased BMI and poor shoe fit.¹ Poor shoe fit could be the result of shoes that are too tight or too big, so that the arch support is in the wrong place or results in the foot shifting in the shoe. It could be the result of a shoe that is worn out and is no longer supporting your arch as it should.
All of these factors may combine to form the symptoms which are characteristic of plantar fasciitis
- Heel pain is worse in the morning and the first steps after waking up or after sitting for a long time.
- It is common for the pain to be noticeable when starting a run or hike, then subside midway through the activity, and then return later on in the run/ hike.
- The pain, which typically entails throbbing, cramping, stabbing type pain, is usually also present when walking upstairs, walking barefoot and on your toes.²
Treating Plantar Fasciitis
The good news is that about 90% of cases can be corrected without surgery. Plantar heel pain is the foot symptom that is most commonly treated in outpatient Physical Therapy centers.¹ Treatment includes a variety of strength training and stretches for the foot, ankle and calf. A physical therapist can help guide you through these strengthening and stretching exercises, as well as provide effective manual treatment and taping which in recent years research has shown to be crucial in the rehabilitation process.
A basic example of some exercises include:
- plantar fascia stretches
- calf stretches
- self-massage by rolling the foot on a golf-ball or foam roller
- foot-arching exercises
- leg raises to strengthen the hips
Cryotherapy (icing) frequently throughout the day is also crucial for pain control and recovery.
Get help for heel pain
Checking in with a physical therapist (PT) is necessary to resolve this condition, in order to properly assess your situation and to determine which type of stretches and strengthening are right for your specific condition. A PT can also help you determine the ideal selection of footwear, supplemental arch support and/or heel cup which may help your condition.
Our orthopedic Physical Therapy team at The Rehabilitation Center can provide you with an individualized assessment and exercise program to meet your specific needs to get you back into your routine safely. We have two convenient locations: In Boone next to the Broyhill Wellness Center, and in Linville on the campus of Cannon Memorial Hospital.
2. Wilder R, O’Connor F, and Magrum E, (2014). Running Medicine. Healthy Learning. pp. 22, 372.
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