How to Treat Plantar Fasciitis and Get Rid of Heel Pain for Good

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Get rid of the pain of plantar fasciitis.
Get rid of the pain of plantar fasciitis. (Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aussiegall/322013191/)

Plantar fasciitis (sometimes misspelled plantar fascitis) is the inflammation of the plantar fascia in the foot, often caused by a sports injury. The fascia (connective tissue) on the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed, causing pain in the heel, arch and sometimes the side of the foot. The heel pain resulting from plantar fasciitis is hard to get rid of. It takes several steps and diligent care to treat plantar fasciitis.

Things You'll Need

  • Arch support insoles or supportive shoes
  • Soda can
  • Sports tape
  • Heel lifts

Wear good arch support with good cushioning. Good arch support that fits your natural arch is essential to treating plantar fasciitis. See a podiatrist and get fitted for orthotics, or wear comfort shoes like Birkenstocks or Mephistos, which mold to your feet. Or try good quality arch supports or insoles such as heat moldable orthotics. Wear arch supports on both feet, not just the foot that has the heel pain.

Tape the bottom of the foot to provide additional support to the arch. Using 1-2" sports tape or just about any strong tape (I've heard of using duct tape!), apply the tape to the bottom of the foot once a day, and remove the tape at night.

Do calf stretches to help with heel pain. Stretch gently. Calf stretches release the muscles down your calf, along your Achilles tendon, and in the bottom of the foot. This in turn eases the strain on the ligaments (fascia), which are not designed to stretch very much. Do an easy calf stretch sitting or lying down by straightening the leg and tilting your toes toward your face. Or, do a classic calf stretch against the wall.

Continue to walk. Although your feet hurt, this is not a condition where staying off them helps. Avoid excessive pronation or supination. Walking should not hurt excessively and should feel better after the first few minutes.

Ice the affected foot to reduce the inflammation. A perfect means of icing your foot is a soda can kept in the refrigerator. Take off your shoe and sock, sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, and roll the can firmly along the bottom of your arch to your heel for about five minutes. This both massages the muscles and ices the inflammation, reducing the pain in the heel.

Do massage as part of your treatment of plantar fasciitis. Any chance you get, dig your fingers into the arch and soft tissue of the foot where it hurts. Massage the heel, bringing healing blood to the spot and releasing the foot muscles. Never massage to the point of pain; an ache that makes you groan is fine. See Resources for another article about how to do massage for plantar fasciitis.

Prevent reinjury of the fascia. When you have been off your feet for any length of time, avoid putting weight on your injured foot until you have massaged your foot and, ideally, done a calf stretch. Re-injury of the fascia occurs each time the ligaments have to take the strain of bearing weight--strain that ought to fall on the more elastic foot muscles. When you relax the foot muscles attached to the fascia by massage and stretching, they can now stretch fully, preventing the fascia from tearing.

Try heel lifts. Buy them at drugstores and pharmacists or foot health supply stores. Be sure to wear the lifts on both feet, not just the injured one.

Be patient. Getting rid of plantar fasciitis and heel pain can take time. Keep doing the routine to treat plantar fasciitis. It will pay off. Your heel pain may take several months to go away completely, and sometimes up to a year. In some cases, surgery may be indicated, but non-invasive treatments such as those described above are usually indicated first.

Tips & Warnings

  • Typically just one foot is affected.
  • Plantar fasciitis is associated with the related condition of a heel spur. The heel spur, a type of calcium deposit, in most cases is not what causes the pain. Rather, the pain comes from the injury to the connective tissue in the foot.
  • Plantar fasciitis can be caused by anything that puts strain on the connective tissue in the foot. Inadequate arch support in flat shoes, the strain of walking in flip-flops, and rapid side-to-side foot movement such as that which occurs in tennis or racquetball can cause the fascia to tear and get inflamed.
  • Do not stretch your calf immediately after icing your foot.
  • Night splints may help get rid of plantar fasciitis.
  • In about 5% of the cases of clinical plantar fasciitis, surgery is called for to get rid of the heel pain and successfully treat plantar fasciitis.
  • Heel lifts and night splints are usually a temporary solution and not always necessary to heal. Wearing them too long might have adverse affects. Check with your podiatrist.
  • Don't take this article as medical advice; check with your doctor first before starting treatment.

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