Matters of the FEET are close to my HEART.
My grandfather (I called him Papa) was a Podiatrist. I lived with my grandparents for many years when I was growing up and my Papa often gave me advice. About my feet. Two pieces of advice stand out to me: 1. Make sure your socks don’t squeeze your toes together, and 2. Buy good shoes that are flexible at the ball of the foot AND that don’t squish your toes together.
Because of my grandfather I take good care of my feet. It makes good sense to me. Afterall, about 25% of our bones and muscles are located in the feet! Issues in the feet have direct impact throughout the rest of your body. You should take care of your feet too because Foot Health=Total Body Health (tweetable?).
I meet many people who have Plantar Fasciitis, but most of them don’t know WHAT it is or HOW to treat it. I wish that doctors had the time to explain or define conditions to their patients. I also wish that patients would ASK for that information to empower themselves about their health.
What is Plantar Fascia?
If you want to help your body and take care of it, it helps if you try to understand what is inside. Plantar Fascia is the name of the connective tissue (fascia) on the bottom of the foot. It connects from the heel of the foot (calcaneus) all the way to the flexor tendons of the toes (bottom of the toes). It is a dense fibrous tissue that supports and stabilizes the arches of the feet.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis occurs when this band of fascia gets inflamed and starts to degenerate where it attaches at the calcaneus (the heel bone). It is a syndrome of overuse – either from being overstretched or from being overly contracted. The degeneration at the heel is what is most painful because the fascia is being pulled away from the bone. Ouch. If it is not relieved, a bone spur can grow there. Even bigger Ouch.
What Can You Do to Treat Plantar Fasciitis?
1. Answer these questions: What kind of shoes do you wear most of the time? Does the toe box squeeze your toes together? Do you wear flip-flops? Do you wear high heels or sneakers with a lot of height in the heel? If you answered yes to any of these then STOP DOING THAT! Why? That could be a whole other post. Find shoes that allow your toes to spread and allow you to have a natural gait cycle with the foot (listen to my Papa!).
2. Notice if you walk with your feet or one foot turned out. If you do. STOP DOING THAT! If you catch yourself doing it, correct it. Remember to walk with your feet pointing straight forward in the direction you want to go. As if you were steering your car.
3. Self-treatment with therapy balls. I like Jill Miller’s Yoga Tune Up® balls and Sue Hitzmann’s soft Melt Method balls. Fascia (that’s your connective tissue) is more responsive to soft pressure so please don’t use anything hard like a golf ball. Also do not apply pressure directly on the heel. You can do this standing near a wall or sitting on a chair. Start with sustained pressure in the center of the foot. Then apply gentle pressure at the base of each toe. Roll from side to side across the ball of the foot and across the base of the toes. Next, gently roll from the base of the big toe TOWARD the heel. Pick up the foot when get close to the heel and then start again at the next toe and so on until you get to the pinky toe. Finally, roll around any which way you like just stay clear of the attachment at the heel. I am doing this right now as I write this. heaven.
You might also want to try a foot massager like this one called Moji Foot Pro which can be placed in the freezer so you can get some cold rolling therapy for your feet too. You use this one sitting down. The balls are hard but the pressure is distributed through all of the 6 balls so it’s not nowhere near as intense as using something hard like a golf ball.
4. Now for some stretches. Contrary to what you might think – stretching the actual tissue near the heel will most likely aggravate it more. Which is why I offer stretches AROUND THE AREA AND NOWHERE NEAR IT! Tension in the Plantar Fascia is often connected to tension up and down the back of the leg – so it makes sense to stretch the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) as well as the Hamstrings. It also makes sense to stretch the top of the foot to bring the attachments closer to each other, creating some slack for the Plantar Fascia.
Stretch A: Cut your Plantar Fascia some slack! Instead of stretching the sole of the foot, stretch the top side of the foot. That’s right! The other side of the foot. This allows the fascia to go slack and get a little relief from the tugging. When I wake up in the morning, my left heel is tender. This is the first stretch I do and I get immediate relief.
Stretch B: Calf muscle stretch. Place your heel on a soft but stable surface like a rug or yoga mat. Roll up a towel and place the ball of your foot on it. Step forward a little with the other foot. Do this with the knee straight and then try it with the knee bent. If you feel pain on your heel from doing this then limit the amount of stretch or skip this one for now until you can do it without pain in your heel.
Stretch C: Hamstrings stretch: Place the back of your heel on a chair or something lower like a step. Straighten both knees and make sure you have not allowed the standing foot to turn out. Keep your spine neutral (don’t let it round) and fold your pelvis over your thigh. If you keep your spine neutral then you do not have to go far to get the stretch in the hamstrings. If you forgot why you are stretching your hamstrings for Plantar Fasciitis then go back to point #4.
So there you have it – a bunch of things you can do to treat and alleviate discomfort from Plantar Fasciitis. Good luck, and remember FOOT HEALTH=TOTAL BODY HEALTH! I think my Papa would have been very proud of this post:)