Summer has arrived, schedules and habits have changed and I am starting to have a few clients come in with some serious foot pain. If this is you, listen up! What you are most likely experiencing is Plantar Fasciitis.
Plantar Fasciitis occurs when the fascia at the bottom of your foot, which helps to support your arch, becomes inflamed and begins pulling at the base of your heel. You are feeling a sharp, shooting pain at your heel usually with that first step out of bed in the morning or following a longer than usual Netflix marathon. There are a few reasons why this could be popping up in your life right now.
Summer time is the season of flip flops! You have ditched your wonderfully supportive shoes for something more free and breezy. Now while I am a big fan of going barefoot and feeling the ground beneath your feet, if you have worn shoes all winter then the intrinsic muscles of your feet have been hibernating and may have become weak. Now when you put the pressure down on your foot there is nothing to support your arch and it begins stretch out and put tension on your plantar fascia.
Another possibility is that you have decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and start training for your upcoming marathon. Now this wouldn't usually be a problem but most of us seem to forget that it is possible to train during the winter and we jump into a training schedule too quickly that is way too intense. Who has time for easing into things anyways?? Well think again! You lace up those shoes and go for an uncharacteristically long run while the dust from your unused trainers is blowing behind you and you are going to be in some serious pain. Your feet aren't strong enough for the continual pounding on the pavement and again, that plantar fascia is going to be stretched beyond its limits.
Now I don't know if you noticed, but this summer seems to be the season for new babies! There have been tons of beautiful mommy-to-be's enjoying the summer weather and coming to visit us at the studio. Unfortunately quick weight gain is another cause of foot pain. The foot again isn't strong enough to be supporting this new weight that has been placed upon its tiny surface area and the plantar fascia is stretched to its limits. With pregnancy and weight gain we also see the typical external rotation of the hip while walking and this also leads to increased stress on the fascia.
So, what do you do about it? Well there are a few things that will help decrease the pain and inflammation. If you have just finished a run, or have been standing for long hours and your foot is already inflamed then ice, elevation and rest is your best option. In the case of chronic plantar fasciitis you are going to want to avoid activities that are aggravating. If you want to continue training, start with non-weight bearing activities such as swimming or cycling. If you are getting back into a routine that typically increases symptoms then proceed slowly, start with a shorter distance and decreased length of time and ice afterwards. Some people are in such severe pain that wearing supportive shoes 24/7 is the only way to give your feet the support they need to decrease the inflammation and start the healing process. If this is you, continually wear your shoes outside, in the office, in your home...basically everywhere except the shower and bed. Once your symptoms begin to decrease then you can start to walk barefoot and proceed with the self-care mentioned above.
Often your calf muscles will compensate for increased stress on your heel pad therefore your soleus and gastrocnemius will become tight and shortened, pulling your heel up and back and irritating your plantar fascia even more. If this is the case then heat on the posterior lower legs before activity will help to lengthen the calves and decrease irritation. Stretching out your calves to help lengthen them will also play a role in your recovery. Rolling out the soles of your feet is another way to help decrease any adhesions that have formed and may be restricting any mobility of the foot and its fascia.
Another great option is to increase the strength of those intrinsic muscles of the foot. Having a stronger arch will decrease the stretch on the plantar fascia. There are a couple very simple exercises to accomplish this. One is picking up pencils with your toes, sounds weird right? But it works! Another is the technical "Towel Scrunch". Place a towel on the floor and then place your feet on the edge of the towel. From there pull the towel towards you using your toes. These motions will increase the strength of your arch and provide better support for your feet.
So there it is! If you are having foot pain this could be your solution! I truly hope this information is helpful and don't forget that we can always help with treatment through massage therapy. Enjoy the rest of your summer and see you at the studio soon!
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