Managing Heel Pain

Plantar Fasciitis… It’s Like Walking on Glass

Taking your first step out of bed, just to feel a burning sensation under your foot, is not a pleasant way to start your day. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2 million people each year experience this discomfort each year.

Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with this very issue as well, but thankfully have managed it successfully. While I’ve seen that the common treatment is being given custom-made orthotics (which cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars), I figured out on my own how to treat my case of plantar fasciitis.

While it annoys me that I see plenty of people receive sub-par treatments for this injury, let me stop rambling and just tell you what I did to help myself.

Roll Those Arches

If I could only choose one option to deal with heel pain, it would be self-massage. Honestly, I think it’s paramount to regularly work on the soft-tissue in the arches to maintain pain-free feet. The plantar fascia, or what we know as the arches of our feet, bear the load of our bodyweight when we stand, walk, run, and so on. So why wouldn’t we take the time to break up the adhesions and increase the circulation in something that takes a daily beating?

This video pretty much sums it up. Grab a tennis ball, golf ball, baseball, or lacrosse ball (I prefer the lacrosse ball), and roll it into your arches. Dig deep – seek out the painful spots. After a few days of doing this, doing massaging my plantar fascia was no longer painful  to do and actually felt nice.

Work on Ankle Mobility

While I’m not exactly sure if this is an issue that directly affects plantar fascia health, I noticed my ankles were tight as hell when I experienced heel pain. Thanks to modern-day living, we all wear constricting shoes that have thick heels that end up shortening our Achilles’ tendons. this is a big no-no for general foot health.

The video below is by Kelly Starrett from mobilitywod.com. The video is long, but contains good information regarding ankle mobility. Skip to 6:00 if you just want to see the ankle stretches.

Here, we’re doing your basic calf stretches against the wall. First, I’d do it with a straight, locked knee to target the gastrocnemius muscle. Then, I’d follow it up with a bent-knee to stretch out the soleus muscle. I did this for a few weeks and my ankle mobility became pristine afterwards.

Strengthen the Tibialis Posterior Muscle and External Glutes

Ever heard of the phrase over-pronation? It was a cute buzzword back in the day, and a catch-all diagnosis for runners. Over-pronation means that whenever you take a step, your arches collapse. The only solution people would put forward was to wear shoes designed to negate over-pronation.

I had over-pronation, and was told this is something you can’t simply change. Well, that’s complete bullshit. The reason why I over-pronated was not because of some genetic defect, but because the muscles responsible for preventing over-pronation while walking or running were not activating when they should have. So, what needed to be done? Activate and strengthen these damn muscles!!!

What is the opposite of ankle pronation (and resist ankle pronation)? Ankle supination. I reactivated the muscles that resist pronation by supinating the ankle. Here’s an example of ankle supination. (And, as a side-note, this is properly known as ankle eversion and inversion).

Why is over-pronation so bad? Because, each time you take a step, that plantar fascia of yours is excessively stretching and flattening out. It would make sense that this repetitive motion would be more damaging to the feet than a less-extreme, reduced amount of stretch in each step. Interested more in preventing over-pronation? Check out the latest article I wrote on this dysfunctional movement pattern.

Lose Weight.

This is the simplest thing I had to do, yet the hardest.

It makes sense. The heavier one is, the heavier the load that the plantar fascia has to deal with. In my case, I had experienced weight-gain at the time. It was obvious I had to lose that weight I had just put on.

Sure, losing weight is easier said than done, but the benefits of attaining a lower bodyfat-percentage are long-lasting. In this case, it helped relieve chronic heel pain.

Get off Your Feet and Relax.

If I sprained my ankle, I’d refuse to put weight on it until it began to feel better. Why shouldn’t heel pain be approached n the same manner?

Reducing the amount of stress on the plantar fascia by walking less should give it more of an opportunity to heal the damaged soft-tissue. This rings true with any joint-related or soft-tissue-related injury. Injuries need time to heal.

It’s not that easy to sit down all the time, especially if you work, go to school, or have a life. However, you can ask others to do a task for you as a favor, take a day off, relax and lay down instead of walk around during your free-time – anything you can do to reduce the time spent on your feet. I managed to do the same thing. Sure, it’s a bit of a bother to make these changes, but it was well worth it in the long-run.

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One Comment

  1. Photo Credits
    Heel spur. Author: Dr. R.S. Pradeep Raj. commons.wikimedia.org

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