Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition where the tissues on the bottom of the foot become irritated with weight bearing activities. The term “plantar fasciitis” is a little less accurate than we once thought as this isn’t purely an inflammatory condition as the “itis” part would imply. Instead, it is a condition that happens when the plantar fascia tissue gets challenged beyond its strength capacity. This overloading causes the tissue to become painful.
Signs You Have Plantar Fasciitis
The biggest indicator that you have plantar fasciitis is pain on the heel and through the bottom of the foot, that is typically worse after inactivity. Individuals suffering from plantar fasciitis often report that the first few steps in the morning, or walking after sitting for a long time are incredibly painful. After a few minutes of moving around, symptoms and pain often reduce.
With weight bearing activities like running, the plantar fascia also will become irritated as the load placed on these tissues is more than they can currently handle. This is an important concept to understand in plantar fascia rehab. Our rehab goal should be to increase the strength of the muscles of the arch of the foot so that they aren’t being overloaded constantly. Stretching alone won’t do that even though it is often the most recommended treatment.
What Can Be Done to Help Reduce Plantar Fasciitis Pain?
From a treatment perspective, At Onward we place treatments into two categories: things that temporarily calm plantar fasciitis symptoms down, and things that create long-term improvements.
The “calm symptoms down” treatments are great because of how irritating this pain can be. You have to walk to function in daily life. And that makes avoiding this painful condition so challenging. So we utilize tools like soft tissue mobilization, myofascial decompression, stretches, taping, and dry needling to relieve the pain, even if that is just temporary. Combining that with longer term solutions is the best recipe!
Soft Tissue Mobilization
One of our favorite tools to give individuals with plantar fasciitis is this simple lacrosse ball mobilization to the bottom of the foot. Gently massage these tissues for ~1 minute prior to getting out of bed in the morning to reduce the pain you have in those first few steps.
View Video on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/E2BubFPCAI8
Mini Band Calf Raises
The next step in plantar fasciitis treatment is to strengthen the tissues in the bottom of the foot. One great exercise for that is mini band calf raises which work the posterior tibialis and muscles of the feet, which help reduce the stress placed on the plantar fascia. Use a strong enough mini band that sets fo 10-20 reps is challenging.
View Video on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/VenrCHo00NI
Towel Roll Calf Raises
We also love Towel Roll Calf Raises to strengthen the plantar fascia. Extending the big toe over a towel roll will increase the strength demands placed on the foot compared to standard calf raises. Perform 3×12 with the hardest variation you can in this video without more than discomfort in the foot.
View Video on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/HdrEM7doQCc
Why should patients with Plantar Fasciitis pain consider consulting a PT?
With this condition being so painful, seeing an experienced physical therapist can greatly speed up your recovery process. The Onward team uses combinations of treatment techniques to calm your symptoms down while simultaneously giving you the appropriately dosed- exercises that will build foot strength up long term.
Our team also offers a number of different performance based assessments that will help to reduce your pain and work on reaching your long-term fitness goals. For example, many runners have technique issues that will place more stress on their plantar fascia and limit their running efficiency. Our Run Form Assessments will help to identify these energy links and get you back on the road, stronger than ever! View Video on Onward’s Running Assessment’s YouTube here.