Plantar Fasciitis…A Real Pain in the Foot

Monday January 12, 2015

Whether you are an Iron Man, a yogi, or an armchair quarterback, there is a good chance that you will one day suffer from plantar fasciitis.  Plantar fasciitis occurs when the connective tissues, also known as fascia or aponeuroses, on the sole of the foot, become inflamed.

Although the condition is painful and can be debilitating, it is rarely permanent.  A classic symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain in the foot or heel upon rising in the morning.   Fascia is somewhat like taffy, and needs to be warmed and manipulated to stretch.  After a night’s rest, the plantar fascia is most likely to be inflexible and sticky.  Heel pain may be the result of a small calcification or bone growth at the base of the heel that “snags” the fascia.  Although the pain usually lessens throughout the day with movement, a more severe case of plantar fasciitis may make walking extremely uncomfortable, and may sideline a runner.

Although high arches, flat feet, weight gain, taut Achilles tendons, and tight calf muscles are known contributors to plantar fasciitis, the cause is largely idiopathic, meaning that sometimes it just happens for no apparent reason!

There are a few things that you can do to prevent and/or treat this condition.  One of the easiest things you can do is to throw away your flip flop sandals!  The constant gripping your toes must do while wearing flip flops cause the fascia to tighten.  Choose shoes with adequate support, both in the arch and laterally, and consider a shoe with a slightly elevated heel.  Rolling the sole of the foot over a tennis , Lacrosse, or even golf ball can help stretch the fascia, but don’t forget to stretch the entire backside of your legs, too.  The connective tissue in your feet is directly connected to the connective tissue of your calves and hamstrings.  Some find that utilizing the foam roller is the best way for them to address the back fascial line, but any slow, purposeful stretches will help.  Fascia is largely avascular (no blood) and takes a lot longer to stretch than muscle, so be patient!

Your yoga practice may also help prevent plantar fasciitis.  Because yoga is practiced with bare feet, it strengthens the small supporting muscles of the foot, especially when balancing on one leg.  This strength may help your feet to better support your arch, thereby supporting the fascia.  Many common yoga poses support stretching the back fascial line, including downward facing dog, forward fold, and toe squat.

Massage Therapy is an excellent way to address plantar fasciitis.  Your therapist can address your back fascial line with deep stretching strokes, specifically addressing the aponeuroses of the feet.  Although ice is an effective treatment and pain reliever for plantar fasciitis, your therapist may opt to use heat to warm up the fascia before deep massage.

Plantar Fasciitis may be a real pain…in the foot…but you can certainly take simple steps to treat this condition and perhaps prevent a recurrence.  Feel free to contact me with questions about massage or yoga and the treatment of plantar fasciitis!

Written by: Amy McKinstry Kaufmann, NCLMBT, RYT 230