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Does Your Heel Ache? 7 Ways to Treat Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of foot pain (specifically in the heel). After I started showing symptoms of it (and consequently started complaining about it) I was surprised to find out that this rather fancy sounding condition affects many more people than I ever suspected.

By
Brock Armstrong,
Episode #413
Photo of a female runner with heel pain

I spent the last year (or so) dealing with a type of foot pain that is referred to as Plantar Fasciitis (plan-tar fash-ee-eye-tus), or PF for short. During that time, I tried pretty much anything and everything. Here are a few things I learned that you can try if your plantar's fascia becomes inflamed.

What Is PF?

The ligament called the plantar fascia is a flat band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. One of its most important duties is to support the arch of your foot. If you upset your plantar fascia, it can get swollen, irritated, and inflamed, which will make your heel hurt when you stand or walk. Most often the pain is stabbing and intense during your first few steps in the morning, and again after any time you spend sitting idly for a while. Other than that, it is mostly confined to an annoying ache. 

Plantar fasciitis is defined as "an overuse syndrome characterized by localized inflammation or degeneration of the plantar fascia at its anatomical insertion on the calcaneus.” Simplified, that means that it is not the whole plantar fascia that is likely inflamed, it is just a particular point (the anatomical insertion) where the tissue attaches to the bone (the calcaneus) that experiences inflammation or degeneration.

Plantar fasciitis is common in middle-aged people and it can occur in one foot or both feet. Luckily, I only have it in one. #blessed

How to Treat It

Common treatments for Plantar Fasciitis include using a heel insert (which I tried—meh), night splints that keep your foot in a dorsal flexed position (I have enough trouble sleeping, thanks—meh), non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (masking the pain—meh), injection of a corticosteroid (maybe, if I get desperate enough, but until then—meh), and staying off your feet (be more sedentary—double meh). Let's look at some other treatments that feel a little more get-fit and quick and dirty.

1. Stretching

Stretching is very helpful for treating Plantar Fasciitis because it can help reduce inflammation and provide greater elasticity in and around the affected area. If you have PF you should stretch your calves and your hamstrings. You should also stop wearing shoes with heels (any size of heel) which is known to cause shortening of your Achilles tendons, hamstrings, and so much more.

While you are at it, it is a good idea to make sure your pelvis aligns where it belongs as well. Biomechanist Katy Bowman has a great page about pelvic alignment called Mind Your Pelvis. I have actually noticed that during my morning “wake-up & get-moving” routine, my heel really loosens up when I get to the hip circle portion of the routine. 

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