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Understanding and dealing with Plantar Fasciitis

Nov. 6, 2011 at 5:06 a.m.
Updated Nov. 7, 2011 at 5:07 a.m.


Many of my clients have experienced the pain of Plantar Fasciitis.

This condition can make it difficult to do everyday activities, much less work out.

The plantar fascia runs from your heel to your toes. Its main function is to hold up the arch.

When you injure this area, small tears occur in the fascia. As the tears get bigger, the arch starts to collapse causing pain.

The symptoms include heel pain, especially when you first get up in the morning or after being seated for an extended period of time. The pain usually eases somewhat as you begin to move around.

The pain may be a deep ache that occurs in the arch area of your foot.

The heel area may be quite sensitive when pressure is applied by your thumb.

Pulling the toes up towards the shin can be quite painful.

Plantar Fasciitis can usually be traced to a couple of causes.

The first is tight calf muscles. The tight muscles cause the foot to roll to the inside, which puts more pressure on the arch and causing the tears.

A lot of times, a shoe insert can help support the arch and minimize tearing.

Another cause can be having high arches. As you take a step, the arch collapse and stretches beyond its capacity causing partial tears.

Again, inserts can give relief. Carrying around an extra 20 pounds or so can exacerbate the condition.

Heel spurs are often associated with Plantar Fasciitis.

These can be caused by the fascia constantly pulling on the heel bone and causing it to grow a small spur. Supporting the arch is usually the best way to relieve the pain and allow the fascia to heal.

Some tips to help the healing process include wearing shoes that fit well.

You may need inserts and/or shoes that control motion and stabilize your foot from excessive pronation (turning inward).

You can also wear shoes all the time. Going barefoot or wearing flip flops causes more strain on the arch.

Pay special attention to the stretching of your calf muscles.

Some people get relief by using a night splint. These look like a sock with a strip attached between your toes and your shin.

As you sleep, it keeps your foot in a flexed position which helps keep the fascia stretched as it heals.

Shift your workout to low impact activities such as swimming, biking, or the elliptical to give your feet a chance to rest while maintaining your fitness.

To help prevent Plantar Fasciitis from returning, you can add some foot strengthening exercises to your routine. These include picking up small objects like marbles with your toes, and alternating spreading and clenching your toes together.

Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

Melissa Bagnall is a certified personal trainer with a Bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University in physical education and the owner of Fitness Solutions. You can reach her at fitnesolutions.com.

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