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Learn about the symptoms, what causes it and the exercises and treatments that can quickly relieve the pain and treat the condition at home

a man using a special roller underneath his foot to treat plantar fasciitis and relieve the pain
simple exercises can help relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis is a painful condition where there is pain in the heel or the area between the heel and the toes on the sole of the foot. It is caused by inflammation or small tears in an area of tissue under your foot called the plantar fascia.

What is the Plantar Fascia?

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue, rather like a large, wide elastic band, that goes from your heel bone to your toes underneath your foot. The purpose of this thick band is to help support your foot and act as a shock absorber for when you are doing activities such as running, jumping, vigorous exercise or even standing for long periods of time.

Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms

The first symptom of plantar fasciitis is usually noticing a mild pain under the heel upon waking and getting up in the morning. The heel may feel a little bruised or sore, especially if you press the area, or will feel as if there is a small stone stuck underneath the foot but there will be nothing to see on the surface of the skin. The pain will often go after about 15 - 30 minutes of being up and about and walking. Sometimes the pain may come on in bed at night.

The next likely symptom is that the same pain occurs if you have been standing for too long, or even when you get up from a sitting to a standing position. Again, it may wear off after about half an hour. The pain may feel like a stabbing pain, a burning or a bad ache.

The pain will probably start to get more frequent and more painful until you have pain on walking and even sitting at a desk with your feet on the floor. Sometimes you can relieve this by sitting with your legs up but when you put them down again the pain comes back. The pain sometimes disappears when exercising but will return afterwards. In the worst case you can have crippling pain upon sitting, walking, standing or lying down. You often get plantar fasciitis in just one foot but you can get it in both at the same time. The pain is often worse in the morning and the evening and appears to be more common in those over 40.

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

People who jog and run frequently can stress their heel area, particularly if they are wearing old or unsupportive running shoes. Being overweight or obese also puts you at greater risk as it puts excess pressure on the heel.

Insoles for Plantar Fasciitis

High arches, flat feet and an injury that causes you to walk or stand awkwardly can also increase the risk of damage to the plantar fascia. If you do have an injury that causes an issue you could see a podiatrist who can advise you on a personally designed insole for your shoe.

I suffered from plantar fasciitis caused by a pair of new and sensible 2" heeled ankle boots. It was only when I could hardly get home because of the pain one day that I examined the boots and found they were poorly made. When I lifted up the insole there was hardly any support in the heel area at all and the material was flimsy with no support or cushioning. Although they initially felt comfortable, this was down to the insole only and they were not suitable for frequent walking or long periods of standing, which I did at work.

I have been extremely careful when buying footwear since. I can still wear heels, just not totteringly high and also I buy a decent make of shoe with proper foot shaping internally. Make sure shoes are made well and support you foot.

You can also get plantar fasciitis from flat pumps, especially the cheap ones that have a cardboard type insole with a thin but hard flimsy rubber sole on the outside.

How to treat Plantar Fasciitis

You can treat plantar fasciitis yourself at home naturally and with good results.

Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis

  • Firstly, check your footwear and if in doubt wear some really good running trainers with a moulded insole which fits your foot and ensure that it has plenty of cushioning and support. You can buy trainers that help with this condition, just Google 'trainers for plantar fasciitis UK'.

  • If you don't want to wear trainers try some supportive gel heel inserts or full length in-soles with arch and heel support.

  • Sit with your foot raised to take the pressure off the heel and ice the painful area. Use a special ice gel pack, if you don't have one a bag of frozen peas is just as good. Wrap the ice pack in a thin tea towel before use to protect the skin. Raising the foot and using an ice pack can bring near instant pain relief.

  • Take ibuprofen or paracetamol for the pain. Taking ibuprofen will help with any inflammation.

  • Rolling underneath the feet with a Carnation PediRoller also actively relieves pain.

Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis

  • Massage. Massage the sole of the foot very gently with the hands. You can also use a tennis ball and roll it gently under your foot back and forth from heel to toes.

  • Step Drop. Stand on a bottom step but hold on to something for support. Slowly move your feet backwards until the heels are hanging over the edge of the step. Very carefully, start to lower your heels. You are just aiming for a very small and very gentle stretch here. Hold the stretch for about 5 - 10 seconds. Do this 5 times and repeat once or twice a day.

  • Foot Roller. I found one of the best exercise tools was the Carnation PediRoller. You use this twice a day with your bare foot and it can be frozen for an hour beforehand in the freezer too which is bliss. Available from Boots, Amazon and other good online shops.

  • Foot Stretch. Sitting down put one foot on your other knee. Holding your toes, pull them back gently towards the ankle in a gentle stretch. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds and then let go. Repeat 5 times.

  • Tip-Toe Stands. Holding on to a table or using a wall for balance, rise slowly up until you are on your tip-toes and then go slowly back down again. Repeat 10 times.

  • Foot Stretch with Towel. Sit on the floor with straight legs and holding the ends of a towel on each hands. Loop the towel around your feet, keeping it around the ball of your foot and toe area. Keeping the leg and knee straight, slowly pull the towel towards your body, which will bend your toes towards you. Hold for 10 seconds and relax back. Repeat 5 times.

Remember that the aim with all the exercises is to gently stretch the muscles. It should not be painful but it might feel uncomfortable or tight. Stop if there is any pain and see your Dr.

Whatever you do, do not wear flip flops or backless slippers, or any form of foot wear where you have to crunch your toes to hold on or you don't have full support at the back of your foot whilst walking, such as sling back shoes.

You should find that with resting, using the ice packs and some gentle exercise you will get relief very quickly from the pain of plantar fasciitis. Get yourself some decent footwear and keep you feet flexible. It's easy to carry on dong the exercises with the Carnation Pediroller whilst you are watching television!

When you have recovered from plantar fasciitis you can help keep the plantar fascia tissue soft and flexible by kneeling down on your knees with no shoes on and curling your toes so that you are sitting on your heels. This gives a really good stretch to the underside of the feet. It may feel extremely tight when you first start but even if you can only hold this position for a few seconds you will start to gently stretch the muscles. With time, even a few minutes a day, you will encourage flexibility in the fascia and make it less likely that plantar fasciitis will occur again.

If you keep on getting plantar fasciitis then you could try and see a chiropractor. Plantar fasciitis can often by caused by other postural issues which make you more prone to getting this condition, and a chiropractor may well be able to help you.

How long does it take to heal Plantar Fasciitis?

It depends on the severity of your condition and whether you have inflammation or small tears in the plantar fascia. I could barely walk but found that painkillers, ice and resting with the foot up on a cushion gave immediate relief from the pain. Adding in the exercises, especially the use of the Carnation PediRoller meant I was mostly recovered in a week, and I keep up with the kneeling exercises to prevent a recurrence. I am also very picky about what shoes I wear!

If you have no improvement in a couple of weeks or the pain is not getting any better then you should seek medical advice to rule out other conditions such as a heel fracture.

If you also want to pamper your feet and soothe cracked heels, why not try making your own DIY Intensive Foot Balm!

You may also be interested in my article on The Best Ways to Relive Lower Back Pain.

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