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The Path to Healing Plantar Fasciitis: Tips and Home Remedies

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I've worked retail for 16 years, and have endured plantar fasciitis pain for some time. I'm not 100% healed, but it no longer runs my life!

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis

My Struggles With Foot Pain

I have struggled with plantar fasciitis for many years now. During that time I have had many ups and downs, but fortunately I have been doing much better the last couple years in general. I can walk my dogs when I get home from work now without excruciating pain. That's quite an accomplishment because I'm also on my feet at work for 8 hours. On top of that, I can go for miles walking the bike trail without being out of commission the next day.

There have been so many different things that I have tried. I know a lot of people feel like going to the doctor is the best option, but it actually didn't help me. The custom orthotics that were made for me actually made my pain worse. And for me personally, I wanted to avoid surgery if I possibly could. I don't want to discourage anybody from going to a doctor, but I do want to shed light on some other options that could help.

This condition sure is painful, and I hope others will find some useful information here that can help them in their plantar fasciitis journey!

Human foot highlighting where plantar fasciitis pain occurs

Human foot highlighting where plantar fasciitis pain occurs

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is, first off, very painful! It causes sharp pains in the feet, usually in the arch and/or heels. It can be in one foot or both. Often it is caused by over-use of the feet, and athletes can be plagued by the condition for months at a time; occasionally it is chronic and can last for years. It can also occur due to poor form when walking, or poor foot structure.

Obesity doesn't help if you are already prone to it, and also working for hours on hard surfaces can cause a flare-up. Very high arches and flat feet also contribute to this condition because of the extra strain put on the plantar fascia (the band of tissue connecting from the heel to the toes).

One very recognizable symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain when first getting out of bed in the morning, or even when standing up after sitting for an extended period of time. The pain is often most excruciating at this time, and it is a pretty good sign that you have plantar fasciitis.

You usually will not notice any actual swelling of the foot or heel, but it is known to happen sometimes. The best way to avoid getting this horrendous condition is by wearing shoes that offer good support, especially at work and when exercising. Your feet will thank you! Flat, hard, or narrow shoes shouldn't be worn if you're going to be on your feet for a long period of time or engaging in a lot of walking or running. Choose function over fashion whenever possible.

Treatments That Helped Me Heal My Plantar Fasciitis

Ah, the famous question: How to get rid of plantar fasciitis permanently? But hold on there. It's not that easy. In fact, it's not easy even a little bit. The pain can be relentless, even with the help of a doctor. Partly because most of us cannot rest in bed for weeks on end to allow it to properly heal.

One big piece of advice I'm going to give you up front is to not get discouraged. Plantar fasciitis likes to linger—that's for sure. That's what it does. But you have to be aggressive with the treatment. That is the only way to get better.

Rest

Very important! I know, most of us can't afford to take time off work, so what do you do? Well at the very least you have to keep yourself from overdoing it when you're not at work.

If your foot hurts doing housework, or out shopping with your buds, or during your golf outing—sit down. Listen to your body instead of fighting it. The more rest you can get, the faster your body can heal itself. The tissue is already damaged, and every time it hurts and you don't listen it will continue to be damaged because it is constantly being stressed with over-use.

Break Up the Scar Tissue

Also very important, and it will take much longer to heal if you don't do this: You must break up the scar tissue. Especially if you have had a case of plantar fasciitis pestering you for awhile now, you will definitely have a lot of scar tissue built up around your plantar fascia.

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Professional deep tissue massage is great for this purpose, or you can try some things yourself at home first if you'd rather go that route. Anything that is round, firm, and has the ability to roll is ideal. A golf ball or tennis ball are popular choices. They also make little spikey balls specifically for this purpose. It sounds scary using a spikey ball on your feet, but it does actually help!

Also, a rolling pin can work very well if you don't mind buying one just for the use of your feet. You will want to roll your foot along the ball, rolling pin, etc. You must use pressure though if you want it to do any good. You can do this at different times during the day. While watching TV, peeling potatoes, reading a book, scrolling through social media....pretty much whenever is convenient for you to squeeze it in!

A trick that also helps is when you're laying down relaxing, use the heel of one foot and dig it into the arch/heel of the other foot as if you're massaging it. This will break the scar tissue up and promote healing. You will want to do this at least every other day in order to see results. It does hurt at first! But the more often you do it, the less it will hurt you.

Wear Orthotics

When your pain is at its worst, orthotics will help support your feet until they can heal. You can opt to have custom orthotics made at the doctor, or you might want to first try some that are available to buy from most stores. A good (but not overly expensive option) is the Dr. Scholls custom-fit orthotics. You step on a machine (Wal-Mart has them), and it gives you an idea of what kind of support your foot needs. It gives you a number, and you select the right shoe inserts for the corresponding number. They don't work for everybody, but it is worth a shot if you don't want to spend possibly hundreds on orthotics at the doctor.

I personally use the Dr. Scholls orthotics. The custom ones did nothing for me but to cause more pain. Everybody is different though, so be sure to follow what feels best for you.

Use Ice and Heat Treatments

Different people will tell you different things when asking if you should use ice or heat. Think of it this way. Ice will help immensely after you've been on your feet all day and you feel like your feet are screaming in pain. Because ice helps with inflammation and swelling, and also has a numbing effect.

You can use ice packs, frozen bottles of water, bags of frozen veggies, etc. I suggest frozen water bottles, because you can roll them under the heels of your feet easily. But the downfall to ice is that it can also prevent good blood flow to your feet, and you need that blood flow for proper healing. Using heat can help with that blood flow, therefore promoting healing, but it can make the pain worse for some people.

Basically, it is a choice between pain relief with slower healing or faster healing with less pain relief. Ice worked well for me, but everybody is different! If you can tolerate the heat it certainly can only help your condition, not harm it.

Find Good Supportive Shoes

Good shoes are a must-have for those suffering from the evil effects of plantar fasciitis. Some of the best brands include Orthaheel, Hoka, Vionic, Asics, Brooks, Saucony, and New Balance. But not so fast! You can't just pick any kind of shoe that these manufacturers make. Some are for running, standing, walking, etc. So make sure you're getting a pair that suits your needs. I like to use Amazon for things like this since you can search for the different kinds of shoes and read their uses and user reviews all in one place. My preference has been the Hoka One One for many years now. They have allowed me to work without being in horrible pain most days, even when my pain was at its worst.

Some shoes are made to control the motion of your foot. These are usually called stability or motion control shoes. They usually have a nice thick sole, which helps to take the pressure off of your painful heels. Choose wisely, because the right pair can make a world of difference.

Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

There are a few foods that can sometimes be helpful with plantar fasciitis, but to be realistic, it is not going to work miracles. I ate pineapple every day during the summer, and it made no difference for me. But some people say it does help them.

Pineapples, strawberries, blueberries, and spinach can help with some of the pain by reducing inflammation somewhat. Some types of fish (particularly salmon) are also good for fighting inflammation because of the omega-3s.

Wear a Night Splint

This is a sort of brace that is shaped in a way that keeps your foot in a constant stretch (flat) all night long, rather than letting it flop around naturally. It helps by not allowing your foot to arch overnight, which causes pain when you step flat on your feet in the morning.

It is said to help most people significantly in the healing process and reduces morning pain very well too. If you decide to purchase one yourself without the doctor directing you, don't go cheap. This didn't work for me, but I think that is mainly because I like to sleep on my stomach and a night splint made that impossible.

Wear an Ankle Brace or Compression Socks

I used an ankle brace at the height of my pain, and it helped a lot. Because the pain often times does migrate into your ankles too. They wear out after daily use, so make sure to replace them when the feeling of support starts to wear away. Compression socks are similar. They keep your foot from flexing as much as it would otherwise when walking. You want a brace that goes down around your arch and over the top of your foot.

Stretch

Stretching is another super important thing that you need to do, Stretching the foot, and also stretching the calves, because usually if you have plantar fasciitis you also have tight calves, and this is not helping you at all. They are all connected, so they all will need to be worked on.

A wall calf stretch is very good for helping with plantar fasciitis pain. Basically, any stretch where you can feel a good pull in your calves is going to help you.

You also need to stretch the foot itself. If you cross one leg straight across the other leg and grab your toes and pull back you feel a good stretch on the plantar fascia.

Sitting with your feet under you on the floor, with your toes holding you up gives a tremendous stretch, and this one always felt so good to do for me. You will start seeing improvements if you do these every day!

Ask Your Doctor About Anti-Inflammatory Medication

These would include medicines like Advil, ibuprofen, etc. They definitely do help with the pain of plantar fasciitis, but it really does nothing to help heal the issue itself. So it is sort of like putting a band-aid over the true problem. But you should absolutely use them if they help you. Just make sure to do other things too in order to promote healing!

It's Not Working—I Need a Doctor!

If none of these work for you after some time then it probably is best for you to go see a good podiatrist. They have a few different things that may help you, although the treatments listed in this article have helped heal a lot of people without needing to see a doctor. Doctors often suggest rest, stretching, icing, orthotics, and supportive shoes. If none of these approaches work, they might suggest other options.

Steroid Injections

There is a steroid injection that is commonly used to treat plantar fasciitis, but it does have its setbacks. There are an awful lot of people who just don't seem to benefit from these shots for very long. You might feel great for a couple weeks or so, but the effects eventually wear off and you're left with that familiar pain that you know all too well. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to be paying for something that isn't going to solve the issue.

But if you're going on vacation or something of that nature, and you need pain relief for a short time, then the shot may be worth your time and money. But the shot also does have its risks, including thinning of the foot pad, and possible tearing or rupture of the plantar fascia.

Surgery

There is also the option of surgery, which is called a plantar fascia release. But it is always considered a last resort option, to be considered only after nothing else has worked.

It also has possible complications including permanent nerve damage, infection, and a rare possibility of worsening symptoms. Discuss all options with your health care professional, and when in doubt, don't be afraid to get a second opinion.

After You're Seeing Progress....

I know this is going to sound crazy, but bear with me. Once your foot/feet start feeling significantly better, you need to focus on strengthening your feet again or you'll continue to go through flare ups.

All those orthotics and thick heeled shoes are a great crutch to help you survive the worst days and get on the right path. But eventually you'll need to teach your feet how to....well, how to be feet again. After all, your feet were made to carry you effortlessly and without pain!

I'd always suggest checking with your doctor first, because if you suffer from more than one foot issue, you may run into problems with this. Also if you had surgery, your feet may need that extra support from orthotics forever. If you're unsure of this next step, talk to your doctor. But if you're able to do it, this will absolutely help you over time.

Are you ready for it? Walk barefoot! Start out slow and work your way up to more and more time spent in your bare feet. In your house, in your backyard, wherever you want! Be barefoot and free. Listen to your feet, if it starts hurting too much then give them a break. There is no rush with this. But it's such an important step in healing permanently.

After you become a barefoot pro, get out there and go buy some barefoot shoes. Wear them outside on uneven ground and help your feet relearn how to balance properly. If you made it this far then you've probably worked really hard, and your feet are in need of you to teach them to once again do what they used to do naturally.

A Final Word

In closing, please realize that even though plantar fasciitis is painful, persistent, and can drag on for awhile, there are many ways to heal yourself. The trick is to find what works for you. Trial and error. Some of these approaches might not work for you personally, but all it takes is one or two things that do work for you, and you will be on your way to recovery. I hope that this article has helped!

Helpful Resources for Plantar Fasciitis

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.

Comments

abbyparker6 on July 21, 2017:

It's true Lisa, unsupportive and too comfortable shoes will only alleviate the plantar fasciitis so we must go for ones that give us good grip when walking. Athletes and non-athletes always look for relief of muscle pain without thinking their ill-fitting shoes are the culprit. This is especially true for people with diabetes, sensitive feet, or ones with foot pain concerns. Shoes with good arch and ankle support will prepare muscles for physical activity and prevent injuries.

lisaluv9784 on November 14, 2016:

I supposed everyone is different, however most doctors actually recommend stretches as one of the first things to try when dealing with Plantar Fasciitis.

Annalisa (author) from Pennsylvania on November 11, 2015:

Calf stretches have helped me a lot too! A lot of people wouldn't think of that, but when I do the stretches I can sometimes even feel it down into my heel. They are all connected

Andrew Petrou from Brisbane on November 10, 2015:

I had this from standing on ladders while working (art ). It got really bad. The stretching got rid of it completely. I notice you recommend calf stretching too: totally agree.

Even though my pain was centered on my achilles tendon the calf stretches did help enormously.

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