About two months ago I develop a nasty case of plantar fasciitis in my right foot. Since then I have tried many different ways to help it heal. Today was the first day since this started that I can say my initial steps in the morning were without pain and that my run today was without pain. So I think I am almost out of the woods.
I wanted to write a post to describe the treatments that I found most useful during my recovery from plantar fasciitis. I received a lot of good suggestions from readers and I tried just about every one of them. I also tried some products sent to my from manufacturers and purchased some additional products on my own. Of everything I tried, I can narrow it down to the following six tips for treating plantar fasciitis.
Tip 1. Stop Running
OK, this first tip is almost a no-brainer. If it hurts to walk, don't run. Pretty simple! And once the pain subsides, start out with short runs and build gradually. When I figured out that I had developed plantar fasciitis I took a couple of days off and then tried a couple of short runs. But my foot still hurt, so I took a full week off and then tried a few short runs. Still hurt so I took more time off. I think I probably would have recovered quicker if I had more patience and allowed more time to heal between test runs.
So my advice is to stop running on it until the pain goes away. Then start back up with very short test runs every other day and then gradually build your mileage back up. If it starts to hurt again, drop the miles or stop complete. Bottom line, the more time you give it to heal the faster you can return to training.
This doesn't mean that you have totally stop exercising. Just switch to a sport that has less impact on your feet like biking or swimming.
Tip 2. Ice, Ice, Baby
This one is also an almost no-brainer. Ice is the default treatment for most running-related aches and pains, including plantar fasciitis. I typically do not ice after runs, even after my long training runs and races. In my mind, I'd rather let my body recover naturally than to aid the recovery through external stimuli like ice. However, in the case of injury, I really felt that the ice helped.
Tip 3. Get Some Balls
This tip is probably the most useful but also the most painful. Rolling your foot on a ball massages the tissue and aids in recovery. However, IT HURTS LIKE A $%#@!!! I tried different sizes of balls and different types. Probably the most effective was a golf ball. I even tried freezing it so that I could ice and massage at the same time, but I don't really think I was able to get much of an icing effect with this approach.
Tip 4. That's A Stretch
My doctor explained that the plantar muscle and calf muscle work together like a pulley system. As a result, a calf muscle with limited flexibility adds strain to the plantar muscle. So his advice was to stretch the calf muscle, not just after a run, but also at regular intervals throughout the day.
Also see a guide to 10 basic stretches.
Tip 5. Let It Hang Out
This one might sound strange, but it really does help! Plantar fasciitis is most noticeable when you take your first steps in the morning. This is caused in part because of the contracted calf muscle position that we sleep in. Whether you sleep on your back, side, or stomach, your feet will tend to point away (like you are standing on your toes). This contracts your calf muscle and puts additional strain on the plantar muscle when you take your first steps.
The solution is to keep your feet pointed at a 45 degree angle to your legs (like the position they are in when you are standing). But how do you do that?
splint or a Strassburg Sock. I even tried to make my own splint but that didn't work out so well. So another solution is just to sleep with your feet hanging out over the end of the bed. This works great for someone like me who likes to sleep on his stomach and does not have a foot board at the end of the bed. Otherwise, you probably need to purse the splint or sock idea.
Tip 6. Support It
Typically I walk around in my bare feet when the situation is appropriate. I feel like this helps to strengthen my feet. However, in the case of recovering from plantar fasciitis you must provide your feet with arch support in order to reduce the strain. That means wearing shoes--all the time--everywhere you go. If you do not have shoes with good arch support, or prefer waking around bare footed or in sandals like me, you need to add support.
Strutz Sole Angle. It's basically a pad that you slide under your arch. You can wear it under or over your sock (I wear my under, directly on my skin). I can say when I first started using it that it hurt my feet big time--just like the deep tissue massage described above. So I would only use it for about 10 minutes initially, then increased the duration, and now I wear it all the time, except for when I run (because my trail running shoes have good arch support).
Alright. I'm done. Those were the six tips I found most useful for treating plantar fasciitis. For more information on treating plantar fasciitis, see http://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0201/p467.html
Now it's your turn! What tips do you have for other readers? What have you found useful for treating your own case of plantar fasciitis?