Do you have heel or arch pain? Is it especially painful in the morning with your first step out of bed? Have you been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis? Plantar fasciitis is caused by micro-tears and possible inflammation to the plantar fascia, which is a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. Here is a plan to get you on the road to healing and back to 100%!
Generally, if muscles are tight then they respond to stretching. The muscles that are likely tight in this case are your calf muscles and your plantar fascia itself. The calf muscles can be stretched by a gastroc runners stretch at the wall where you bring one leg behind you with the toes facing forward and gently lean forward until you feel a stretch in the back leg, calf region. Hold 30 seconds and perform it on both sides, three to five times a day. The plantar fascia can be stretched by performing a seated stretch where you pull your big toe upward and feel a stretch in the arch part of the foot.
Another way to decrease the tightness in these regions is to use a foam roller or a lacrosse ball to “self mobilize,” like a self-massage. For the calves, have the roller or ball under the calf and you can move around so that it releases the tightness in the areas you need it. This can be performed sitting on the floor with one leg bent for stabilizing while rolling out the other leg while it’s straightened out. You could also have your leg up on a coffee table and roll it out in the same way from the seated position with the ball. The arch of your foot can be rolled out either seated or standing by putting firm pressure into the ball until you feel it release, usually about 60-120 seconds.
There may be weakness in the muscles that has led to this pain and often the weakness lies not only in the intrinsic or little foot muscles that support the arch but also the larger gluteal muscles that support the leg from the buttocks region downward. There is strengthening that can help to decrease your plantar fascia-related symptoms. Foot strengthening such as “scrunching a towel” with your foot (as if you are trying to pick it up off the floor) is a very good exercise to perform daily for up to five minutes. Gluteal strengthening is also important and an example is the bridging exercise with a hold at the top. Perform this also daily until you reach a tired feeling in the muscle.
Lastly, as physical therapists we take a broader look at your movement patterns and what else may be causing the issue. This means how are you moving and Is it related to how you are walking? Is it related to a movement pattern that could use some improvement? A full evaluation is very important so that a specific plan can be developed for you.