How to Treat Plantar Fasciitis

Your feet hurt. It feels like you’re stepping on broken glass. Heels ache. The balls of your feet hurt. You may have plantar fasciitis. Plantar what? The plantar fascia (arch ligament) covers the bottom of your foot, going from the heel to the ball of your foot. Factors that worsen it are obesity, standing, impact sports, age, and diabetes.

On this topic

1.  First, make sure that what you have IS plantar fasciitis. Several conditions can mimic it, like diabetic neuropathy, sciatica, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and even a stress fracture. So be sure to visit your health-care practitioner first. Proper diagnosis is key to treatment.  Plantar fasciitis almost always occurs on the bottom of the foot, either near the heel or the ball of the foot.  Also, when you first put weight on your feet in the morning (getting out of bed), you can get sudden sharp pains on the bottom of your foot.  That’s because of the previous day’s activities causing the plantar fascia to become inflammed at night-time.

2.   First thing when you wake up in the morning, BEFORE you put weight on your feet, give your feet a good massage. The “grain” of the plantar fascia runs lengthwise with the foot, so you want to rub perpendicular to it. Use the “heels” and tips of your thumbs to rake and dig back and forth from the heel to the ball of your feet.

3.  Next, using the palm of your hand, push your toes up. This stretches the plantar fascia. Push and hold gently for at least 20-30 seconds before releasing. If you’re feeling pain, you’re pushing too hard, ease up a little. We’re going for a gentle stretch here. Then grab the top of your foot near the ball and twist side to side, like turning a key (i.e.-as you twist the pinkie toe goes down and the big toe up, and then vice-versa.)

4.  Get rigid arch support for your feet. A rigid support, sometimes called an orthotic, will counteract the downward stress on the plantar fascia, and distribute the force evenly across it, rather than concentrate it all in one area (like the heel.)

Depending on your budget you have a few options. Off the shelf, there are things like ProFeet. Many sporting goods stores sell them, but some some department stores and pharmacies many carry them. There are several versions of ProFeet, but go for the rigid variety that covers the bottom 2/3’s of the foot. Pro’s= low price (~$15-$20); Cons= “one size fits all” and no custom fit.

The other two options are for a custom fit pair of orthotics. Option one, a retail store, called Goodfeet, will make a custom-fit pair of orthotics. Pros=custom fit orthotics. Cons= price in the multiple hundreds of dollars.

The other is to visit a podiatrist. Most Podiatrists also make custom-fit orthotics, but you also get a medical professional’s two-cents’ worth. Some insurance companies may cover the visit, and possibly might cover the orthotics, but price still may be high (in the hundreds.)

5.  Finally, address the factors that may be exacerbating your plantar fasciitis. Being overweight puts too much stress on your feet. Improper or ill-fitting shoes can misalign your feet and movement dynamics. Prolonged standing may also contribute to it, especially on a hard surface like concrete. Your feet are designed to move, and just standing there places a static stress on the bottom of your feet. So frequent walking or sitting down breaks up the routine a little, as well as promote circulation.