Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. The plantar fascia is the flat band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes, supporting the three main arches of your foot. When you strain your plantar fascia due to weakness and overuse, the heel area becomes swollen, irritated and extremely painful.
The worst time for pain is first thing in the morning when you get out of bed and start to walk. Our feet are designed to be barefoot using our toes much like our hands in order to maintain normal strength and mobility. Shoes work much like a cast, immobilizing our feet and causing the muscles to weaken. Improper footwear is one of the leading causes of plantar fasciitis. Narrow and overcorrected footwear will often cause your foot to rely on a flat bottom and square heel to support your foot and ankle. When you demand more of your foot muscle and ligaments through increased activities, your plantar fascia will strain and became chronically inflamed.
Traditional treatments methods often consist of anti-inflammatory medication, rest, and even expensive surgeries - addressing the symptoms and not the cause. So, what do we do? Because most of us do not have the option of walking barefoot in soft surfaces in our day-to-day jobs and activities, we must find alternative methods to compensate for the damage created by footwear and rehabilitate the foot.
Newer, advanced research has shown that foot strengthening, better footwear and customized corrective orthotics can remedy plantar fasciitis for good. When choosing footwear, the footbed should make full contact with the bottom of the foot, have a wider toe box area, and a soft mid-sole. Foot strengthening exercises can consist of barefoot jumping rope on an exercise or yoga mat, walking barefoot up and down stairs, towel toe curling exercises, and walking barefoot on sand and grass. If you are a runner, try incorporating running trails with minimalistic flexible shoes and jogging barefoot on grass as a cool down. And finally, consider a soft corrective orthotic such as Gravitus Performance Insoles.
For questions regarding this article, or recommendations on proper footwear and orthotics - drop us a note at gravitusinsoles.com. We're happy to help!
Adriano Rosa BS, ATC, Cped, CSCS
*Note: it is not recommended to wear minimalistic shoes on hard pavement, as many athletes have experienced stress fractures to the foot.