Plantar fasciitis, sometimes called “jogger’s heel,” is a condition caused by inflammation in a part of the foot called the plantar fascia, an area of tissue that connects the toes to the heels.
This inflammation can bring about extreme and sharp pain in the foot, especially with the first steps taken upon waking. Some people get relief after these initial steps when the foot becomes more accustomed to activity. Others experience pain while climbing stairs or standing for long periods, and need treatment to alleviate the discomfort they feel.
Common risk factors for developing plantar fasciitis include age (it’s most common in middle-aged people between 40 and 60 years old), running (hence the nickname of “jogger’s heel”), being flat-footed or having a high arch, abnormal pattern of walking, having tight or tense calves or Achilles tendons, obesity, and wearing shoes that lack proper foot support.
Natural Remedies for Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis can be treated by using a variety of completely natural methods that can bring relief without the need for steroid shots or surgery. If you suffer from plantar fasciitis and want to end the pain, try one of the following options to get the relief you need.
1. At-home physical therapy
You don’t have to visit a physical therapist to get the benefits of physical therapy. There are several simple exercises and stretches that you can perform from the comfort of your own home that can bring relief. Try toe stretches and calf stretches, or use a towel for extra support during towel stretches. Here’s how:
This exercise works on the bottom of the foot.
1. Sit on a chair while extending your affected leg and placing your heel on the floor.
2. Pull with your hand the big toe back towards your ankle.
3. Hold for at least 15-30 seconds.
4. Repeat 2-4 times, several times a day.
This exercise stretches the calf which is the muscle at the back of the lower leg, as well as and the Achilles tendon which connects the calf muscles to your heel bone.
1. Stand in front of a wall and place your hands on the wall at about shoulder level.
2. Put the affected leg about a step behind your other leg.
3. Bend your front knee while keeping your back heel on the floor. You should feel a stretch in the back leg.
4. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
5. Repeat 2-4 times, several times a day.
Another option to consider is being fitted for orthotic shoe inserts, which are custom-made to fit your foot and provide the support you need. These can reduce stress and pull on the plantar fascia ligament.
A more cost-effective alternative to custom orthotics may be to purchase a better pair of insoles readily available in many stores and replace the insole that came with your shoes. Some of these ready made insoles are very supportive and they are not far from having a custom-made orthotic (like this one).
Remember to use orthotic inserts for both feet, even if you only experience the problematic pain in one foot. Even, symmetrical support can soothe existing pain and prevent the foot that is seemingly fine from developing plantar fasciitis in the future.
3. Night splints
A night splint (or night brace) is a sandal-or-boot-like device that provides support to the affected foot during sleep. Many people find that after being fitted for and using a night splint, their foot pain upon waking is diminished greatly.
Night splints can be used alone or in combination with orthotic inserts and stretching exercises, and are often needed only temporarily, as many people experience a lot of pain relief after a few weeks of using a night brace.
4. Ice and massage
Applying ice pack to painful area can be helpful in that the ice reduces pain and inflammation.
Some people find increased pain relief from using ice therapy combined with heat therapy—either by soaking the foot in cold water and then hot water and ending with another cold water soak, or by using ice packs (or a bag of frozen vegetables if you don’t have one) followed by hot compresses.
Massage of the painful area can also be beneficial, as it helps promote proper blood flow and reduces muscle and tendon tension in the foot. Ice therapy can be combined with massage to provide optimal pain relief. Ice the area for 15 minutes, then rub the area where the pain still persists.
How to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
If you’re worried about whether you might be at risk of developing plantar fasciitis, there is good news. You can take proactive steps to keep your likelihood of succumbing to this painful illness by doing one or more of the following things:
Wear shoes that fit well and are supportive
Too many people sacrifice comfort and long-term health for looks and fashion. People who want to avoid plantar fasciitis should avoid wearing high-heeled shoes (I’ve already written how high heels harm you) or shoes with lifts.
Shoes that are too tight or fit too loosely can also be a huge culprit for feet and lead to plantar fasciitis. Choose footwear that is comfortable and has sufficient arch supports and cushioning. If you must wear shoes that are less-than-comfortable, strongly consider using shoe inserts to reduce the damage done to your plantar fascia.
Use footwear even when you don’t have to
To prevent that early-morning stabbing pain, put on supportive shoes as soon as you roll out of bed. Walking around with bare feet or using thin, unsupportive slippers can contribute to and even worsen existing plantar fasciitis. Never let your arch go unsupported or your heels go uncushioned if you can help it.
Stretch before exercising
While some studies have shown that the benefits of stretching prior to exercise are limited, these findings do not apply to people who suffer from plantar fasciitis.
Keeping your Achilles tendon in good, limber shape is crucial to warding off this painful condition, so gently but thoroughly stretch your calves and Achilles prior to any workout (especially if you are a runner or jogger). Make sure to wear good-fitting, supportive shoes while stretching just as you would while exercising to ensure your feet get the help they need to stay healthy and pain-free.
Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight will minimizes the stress on your plantar fascia. To help you with this you can read my article about the 12 simple tweaks for weight loss and great health, and you can also try to make these 3 simple changes for weight loss.