Plantar fasciitis is a very common condition that can affect people of all different activity levels, but it's more frequently experienced by those who are physically active.
A lot of running, dancing or other high-impact activities can initiate the condition, says Christina S. Long, DPM, podiatrist at Wake Forest Baptist Health. "Repetitive pulling of the plantar fascia, the 3 bands of tissue that run from the bottom of the heel to the ball of the foot, can cause inflammation and micro tears, which most commonly lead to pain at the bottom of the heel and sometimes through the bottom arch of the foot," she explains.
Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to reduce overuse of the plantar fascia. Dr. Long shares her tips and exercises for lowering your risk of plantar fasciitis.
Implement Lower-Body Stretching Throughout the Week
Athletes who work out every day tend to develop tighter muscles and tendons. Tightness in the Achilles tendon, in particular, can cause stress along the bottom of the foot. Combat this problem by stretching those areas frequently. You might also consider getting a night splint, which will stretch out your calf at night.
Dr. Long also recommends the following exercises for stretching out your feet:
- Rolling a tennis ball with the arch of your foot
- Standing on a step and letting your heels drop
- Picking up marbles off of the floor with your toes
- Gently stretching toes backward
- Massage frozen water bottle along arch and heel of the foot
Wear Shoes that Stabilize and Support the Feet
Choose shoes that have good arch support, shock absorption and are designed for high-impact activities. It's also important to change out your shoes frequently. "I commonly advise runners to get 2 pairs of shoes every 6 months and switch out the shoes every other day," says Dr. Long. "This will help reduce the progression of wear in the shoes."
In addition, make sure your other shoes, such as your everyday walking shoes, are also supportive.
Take a Rest from High-Impact Activity at Least One Day a Week
Recovery time is an essential part of exercise, and it will help you avoid the overuse and repetition that can lead to plantar fasciitis. However, if you're already experiencing pain in your foot, you may need a longer recovery period. "If the pain is mild, you can still participate in your regular activities, but break them up with low-impact activities such as cycling and swimming," says Dr. Long. "If your feet are in a lot of pain, stop your regular high-impact activity and focus solely on low-impact activities until the pain subsides."
If you’re still experiencing pain after 4 to 6 weeks of stretching, wearing supportive foot wear and getting appropriate rest, it may be time to see a podiatrist or foot and ankle orthopaedist.