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Simple Solutions For Plantar Fasciitis

Updated on January 30, 2011

So you're pretty sure you have plantar fasciitis.  Your heels and midfoot hurt like heck in the morning and then periodically throughout the day.  The profile of a typical plantar fasciitis sufferer matches your own:  BMI on the high side, lots of time spent standing/walking/running on feet and a somewhat pronated foot architecture.  You've read enough about the disorder to ascertain that it's probably the culprit here.  Chances are you've also come across a plethora of different treatments for PF:  Stretches, night splints, cortisone shots, orthotics, heel cups, fancy shoes, walking casts, surgery and so on and so on.

Where are we supposed to start?

Well, that's what this article is all about. You see, most cases of PF can be sorted out in fairly short order with a few simple lifestyle changes. The majority of men and women who suffer from plantar fasciitis never need night splints, cortisone injections or a specialized set of orthotic inserts. Certain retailers may want you to think otherwise but here's the truth: Make the changes outlined below and there's an excellent chance you'll be cured after six weeks.

Stretching The Plantar Fascia

Plantar Fasciitis Streches
Plantar Fasciitis Streches

Plantar fasciitis occurs when little rips develop in your plantar fascia, a length of tissue connecting your heel to your toes.  Most people notice pain upon standing up after extended periods of sitting or lying down.  You can relieve some of the pressure on this tissue by stretching it while you're off your feet.  There are literally dozes of stretches one can do to work the Achilles and the plantar fascia.  I've selected three of my personal favorites and outlined them below.

The Can Roll

This one is great because you don't have to interrupt your TV watching, book reading or snacking while you do it.  Put a can on the floor.  While sitting down, simply place your foot on the can and roll it slowly back and forth along the bottom of your foot.  Make sure you roll it with enough authority to really feel the plantar fascia stretch.  You can do this exercise with a water bottle as well.  Add a cryotherapy component to this stretch by using a cold can or a bottle filled with frozen water.

The Toe Stretch

This is the most direct way to stretch the bottom of your foot.  Sit down on the floor.  Keeping your foot flat on the ground, start bending your knee so your foot comes closer to your body.  Now reach around your leg with both hands, one on either side, and grab your toes.  Make sure to keep your foot flat on the ground.  Pull the toes back slowly.  When you feel the stretch, hold for 30 seconds or so.

Be careful not to pull too hard on your toes.  You don't want to put unnecessary strain on your already hurting plantar fascia.

The Towel Stretch

This is another stretch that can help cure plantar fasciitis.  Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you - almost like you were going to try and touch your toes.  Wrap a towel around the top of your affected foot.  Now, while keeping that leg straight, pull back on the towel with both hands.  You should feel the bottom of your foot stretch.  10 stretches at roughly 30 seconds each will do the trick.

Footwear For Plantar Fasciitis

Another simple step you can take in order to beat PF revolves around footwear. Getting the right pair of shoes isn't as confusing as some manufacturers make it out to be. New Balance, for example, claims that pronation, foot width and arch height all need to be considered when buying a pair of runners. There isn't any evidence that supports the fact that shoes of a "custom" nature like this help cure and/or prevent plantar fasciitis.

What we do know, though, is that shoes with very little support can play a role in causing PF. Old shoes with no padding in the sole, for example, aren't good. They force your plantar fascia to act as a shock absorber. Well, over time, this tissue gets over extended and rips - leading to the painful condition you're dealing with now. The shoes you choose should have some kind of a shock absorbing sole. You don't want your foot taking the brunt of every step's impact. Beyond that, though, just get something that's comfortable.

If you really can't afford a new pair of shoes or you're in love with an old set of beaters, buy some orthotics. Again, you don't need anything fancy or custom. Spenco, Superfeet and Powerstep all have a good reputation. Their insoles are cheap as well - in the $30 range. They can be purchased online or at most drug stores.

Regarding footwear, another thing worth noting is that going barefoot isn't a good idea for folks with PF. Even in your home, it behooves you to wear a supportive set of sandals for plantar fasciitis until your condition clears up.

Over The Counter Medications For Plantar Fasciitis

When people start seeking solutions for certain conditions, simple effective things are often overlooked.  One way to deal with the pain of plantar fasciitis is to take an everyday anti-inflammatory.  Medications like ibuprofen help to cool the inflammation in your plantar fascia.  This can ease the pain of walking or standing substantially.  Advil and Aspirin are both available everywhere.

Now, obviously all this does is treat the symptoms.  Taking medicine does nothing to cure the PF that's causing you the pain.  It does offer you relief while the stretches and footwear outlined above start to cure the root of your pain though.

In Conclusion...

As I noted off the top, the majority of people suffering from plantar fasciitis don't need a whole lot of complex treatment options.  Use the advice outlined above and note your progress after six weeks.  Most of you will be well on your way to a PF free life.  For those that aren't, you'll have a documented history of measures you've taken to combat this condition when you visit a podiatrist.


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