I have suffered from plantar fasciitis on and off for several years, and I have found a few good options for fighting back.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Healthy heels are essential for pain-free walking, running, and standing. The painful condition known as plantar fasciitis can rob you of your mobility, making being on your feet a painful endurance test.
The physiognomy of plantar fasciitis is relatively straightforward. There's a wide band of connective tissue that runs from your calf muscle to the bottom of your foot—this is called your plantar fascia. It passes over your heel bone, which includes a bony point right where your heel contacts the ground, generally known as the ball of your foot or heel.
Repeated contact with the ground as you walk or run means the plantar fascia is caught between that bony point and the hard ground, which can cause it to become damaged and inflamed. This causes a dull pain that can flare into sharp pain as you use your feet.
Recovery from plantar fasciitis means giving your inflamed connective tissue protection from the repeated insult of walking or running. There are several ways to accomplish this—this guide discusses some of the methods that have worked for me.
Plantar Fasciitis Heel Recovery Kit
In addition to massage and heat, it may be worth considering an affordable, easily-obtainable solution to heel pain—a kit that includes a number of physical therapy-inspired solutions. There are any number of decent shoe and heel inserts for sale at drug stores everywhere.
I tried this solution for plantar fasciitis after my heel pain was getting bad enough to hurt me every day. I had gotten to the point where a simple shoe pad wasn't likely to help me very much. The wide variety of products in this kit gave me relief from the worst of the pain, and let me get on with my day. If your heel pain interefers with your daily activities, then consistent, varied treatment is your best bet.
Massage, Heat, and Diet
If you're just starting to feel the numbness and ache of plantar fasciitis, you may be able to head off the more serious symptoms of this painful condition. Inflammation of the plantar fascia typically begins after a long walk or run, especially if you go faster than usual or travel on hills. Another way to wind up with this condition is to gain weight, since the added weight means more damaging impact with each step. All of this means that it's possible to address your incipient heel condition with these non-invasive, holistic measures:
- A foot massage can help soothe the fascia, as can regular heat wraps and warm soaks.
- Wearing thicker socks and trying to wear running shoes whenever possible may also mean that the more debilitating symptoms of plantar fasciitis are avoided.
- You should consider dieting to lose a few pounds. Even a small drop in body weight can substantially lessen the damage from every step you take.
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Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint
Some cases of plantar fasciitis respond to treatment with a quality night splint. This device is a kind of brace that you wear at night to help your damaged fascia recover from the continued impact of each step. That constant drum-beat on the soles of your feet is what makes solutions for plantar fasciitis so hard to find, and what keeps the condition from healing. Unless you can stop walking completely for several weeks, your recovery will be long and difficult.
My own experience lasted nearly four months, during which time I tried using a foot brace meant specifically for the condition. It did help the pain, but beyond a certain point my condition just stayed where it was—manageable, but still an issue. For those of us with mild or early-stage inflammation of the fascia, a quality foot or ankle brace designed specifically for plantar fasciitis may help.
Nike Air Max Running Shoes
I have written elsewhere about Nike Air Max and my own fight with plantar fasciitis. After I tried other solutions, which did help, I read an article about how these shoes are an actual solution for heel pain. I started wearing a pair of Nike Air Max Torch shoes whenever possible, and it was these shoes that finally got me over my heel pain. They're the least expensive of the Air Max line, and look cool enough to at least wear on the way to work (although I had to change into regular shoes for work). The best part is that the heel unit is perfect for cushioning my heels when I walk.
The cushioned heel unit of Nike Air Max shoes allows the damaged fascia of the heels time to heal. I wore my first pair of Air Max shoes almost everywhere for over a month, and by the end of that time, I knew I was going to be okay. Pretty soon I was back to wearing regular dress shoes all day, and the pain had faded to almost nothing.
I myself never got to this point, and frankly, I'm not sure I would have put myself in orthopedic shoes no matter how bad the pain got (I'm a little bit picky about my footwear). However, if your situation is bad enough, and Air Max can't help you or isn't an option for you, then prescription orthopedic shoes may be your best option. Ask your doctor about the possibilities of treating your plantar fasciitis with special shoes—they may even come in styles that you're willing to wear out of the house!
Honorable Mention: Invasive Treatments
You may have noticed that I didn't include surgery and other invasive treatments like cortisone shots. I have nothing against these methods, it's just that I don't have any first-hand experience to share. If you're trying to decide whether or not to get surgery, of course, the first person to talk to is your doctor. He or she can give you the best advice as you work through your options.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.