Plantar fasciitis really sucks! If you have had it or currently have it you know what I mean. I had plantar fasciitis for a number of months and it greatly hampered my life. Running, boxing, hiking, lifting weights, even walking to class – everything hurt and the pain in my heels and arches was so bad that I found myself modifying my walking gait just to find some level of relief. Because of this I began to notice little nagging aches and pains popping up all over my body, in my knees, my hips and my back, all because my body was trying to do daily activities as best it could and was changing my typical movement patterns to try and alleviate the pain in my feet.
Finally I decided that living with foot pain was stupid and I was going to do something about it. I went to a podiatrist (foot, ankle, lower leg doctor) and he sent me to the store to get a specific type of shoe (this shoe is ideal for my foot, possibly not yours), and gave me a foot and calf stretching program that I was to do daily. He also had me freeze a bottle of water and roll it with my feet for 20 minutes each night. I was happy that this treatment was pretty inexpensive and was also pretty effective. My feet felt good afterward, but the relief was temporary, lasting at best a few hours. But in the state of pain I was in, a few hours was a great start and I was grateful. The only issues was that as soon as I got up and started moving around each morning, my feet began to hurt again. I knew that some cases of plantar fasciitis were never going to be “cured” but felt that mine could be if I found the right approach, used it as needed, and made sure not to do anything to further inflame my feet during the process. The approach I was currently using was working, but it wasn’t a perfected approach and I knew that I needed something else to make it work optimally for me.
That is right around that time that I met Kristie Wright, a personal training studio owner who specialized in holistic training practices. It just so happened that Kristie was training her training team on “foot fitness” practices that week and I was lucky enough to be included. Kristie sent me home with an interesting little product called Yamuna foot wakers and foot fitness video, and after about two weeks, my plantar fasciitis was gone, never to return again. I am by no means saying this is typical or guaranteed because there are an infinite number of possible plantar fasciitis causes and intensities. But I do know that the combination of ice rolling, tissue release with the foot wakers Kristie gave me, followed by my stretching program and using the proper shoes for my feet as prescribed by my doctor worked for me and it caused me to believe that there is a “most effective” recipe for anyone else out there who suffers from plantar fasciitis. The interventions I used initially only worked a little bit. I had a good recipe, but not the best one. The final ingredient to the recipe that cured my plantar fasciitis came by tirelessly seeking information and putting good practices into play and then adding to the process as needed. The key, I believe is to find the combination of interventions that work for you coupled with an all out effort to create no further injury to the plantar fascia. Nothing is going to work well if you are constantly doing things to inflame that area. It is well worth the effort to avoid anything that could cause setbacks. This approach ensures you are giving the intervention a fair chance of working for you. If I’ve learned anything in my years of researching this issue, it is that you have to give an intervention time to work and once you do find something that works, never stop. For example, I have not had foot pain since 2007 but my typical workouts have some key components built into them that help keep my plantar fasciitis from coming back. Even though I have no foot pain, I still foam roll my legs regularly, I keep my Foot Wakers at work and use them a couple of times each week and I stretch after every workout. These are the things that work for me to keep my plantar fasciitis foot pain from coming back.
This is a summation of my experience with plantar fasciitis, but I am not a medical doctor. I have a Ph.D., which makes me a qualified researcher of information, not a medical degree and license so I can share my story about plantar fasciitis and gather and distribute information on the subject, but that makes me nothing more than an educated blogger whose foot pain was cured and then decided to write an article about it. To add some credibility to my search for information about “the best products for plantar fasciitis” I sought the expertise of a number of qualified physicians who specialize in foot health. You will read more from these Podiatrists throughout this article.
Podiatrist Input on Pain Relief for Plantar Fasciitis
I decided to ask an authority on the issue so I sought the advice of Dr. Mike Coates, a Podiatrist from Gloucester, England and he told me that, regarding plantar fasciitis, “there is no definitive treatment. This is because there are different causal factors and more importantly many different “body types” who get the condition. Thus treatment is somewhat specific to an individual. That said most people respond positively to “stretch, support and strengthen” programs. Aids used include “Yoga balls” to massage tissues. A variety of insoles for support (one type does not work for all). And for strengthening we may use “wobble boards, trampolines etc”. It is clear that plantar fasciitis can vary greatly from person-to-person so as Dr. Coates alluded to, no one method or approach is going to work for everyone and perhaps a combination of interventions will be needed to provide even the smallest bit of pain relief.
I love what Dr. Coates told me about most people responding to a “stretch, support and strengthen” program. This is just the type of program that worked for me as I mentioned above. The only more specific thing that Dr. Coates also mentioned is that these approaches may also be coupled with “release” techniques that are typically found through the use of applying pressure to an area, as with massage. Dr. Coates mentioned the potential use of Yoga balls which are used to massage the tissues of the feet which would be ideal for this type of treatment. To that point, the foot wakers I used provided that tissue release component that I was needing to make my complete intervention work perfectly for me. Where I think people forget to focus is just where Dr. Coates mentioned, the strengthening component. Stretching, supporting, releasing tissues are all amazing, but at some point you’re going to need to use your feet to do things in life and that will require developed strength. A podiatrist could easily outline an effective strengthening program for you using some of the equipment Dr. Coates mentioned above like trampolines and wobble boards which both require the muscles of the feet to get stronger in order to be reactive as they support the body.
Dr. Coates also mentioned “many different body types.” This probably means that we are all shaped differently and have different structural circumstances that may or may not put us at risk for certain conditions. One body type I do know that contributes to plantar fasciitis and all other kinds of joint and tissue breakdowns is obesity. Being overly fat is very hard on your feet, ankles, knees, hips, back, organs, your entire body. This weight, over time literally smashes your body’s structures into the ground creating great pain and damage. I don’t care what kind of intervention you do, the feet are not made to hold many hundreds of pounds with every step they take. Damaged feet simply cannot heal when they are being forced to carry massive amounts of weight. If you are overweight and have plantar fasciitis there is no way around it, you have to lose weight. Work to engage in a healthy eating and exercise program so you can manage your body fat levels and keep them within a healthy margin that allows you to live without the discomforts associated with the typical muscle, tendon and joint pain arising from being overweight.
My goal with this blog article is simple. I want to give you more information, testimonials, tools and products than you’ve been given so you can learn what doctors and people with plantar fasciitis are doing to find relief from the pain and see if these things can work for you as well. The people in this article are real and are people I have worked with to help find pain relief from plantar fasciitis. These are their stories:
Becky (my Mom) from Virginia tells about her plantar fasciitis experience:
“I started having serious pain in my heels 2 years ago, not knowing what it was, I saw a Podiatrist….he diagnosed my problem as Plantar Fasciitis. Giving me stretches to do and taping my foot, I felt some relief. When the tape came off, my pain was there in force so after multiple visits to the Dr. and lots of money on inserts and braces…I purchased a foot stretching sock I saw online that pulled my foot/toes up, and slept in that each night….I could no longer go barefoot and found my Keens were the only shoe that gave me any comfort and I wore them hiking, to work and around the house. My pain finally subsided after using a foam roller routine for my calves, stretching often, icing my feet and taking Ibuprofen and using the sock.
Before this I was a speed walker and loved to hike, this foot issue slowed me down tremendously.
Recently I planned a trip to hike in Ireland and lo and behold the tightness and pain began to emerge again. I immediately started foam rolling, stretching, icing to avoid the worst. Worried, I talked to my son, a fitness professional (yay for The Consummate Dabbler), about this and he suggested Yamuna Foot Wakers. I immediately ordered them, they were here in 2 days, I watched the video and began the routine….doing it twice a day along with my regular stretching. The results were phenomenal and instant….I had 1 week till I left on my trip and I was able to hike a bit and walk a lot to train for the upcoming challenges. Needless to say, I took the Foot Wakers with me to Ireland to stay on top of it and had no pain, no difficulties whatsoever….and I hiked all over the Irish countryside and up and down mountains for 9-13 miles a day for a whole week! I am recommending them to everyone because this full foot workout with the Foot Wakers truly works.”
My mom mentions an interesting aspect of treatment that I haven’t mentioned previously and that is foam rolling. Not ironically, Kristie Wright, the holistic fitness professional I mentioned earlier, introduced me years ago to a book by Thomas Meyer called Anatomy Trains. This book changed my life, my business, the way I interact with clients and the way I develop teams of trainers. It helped me understand that the areas of our bodies that hurt are not always where the problems are. I already knew this to some degree, but this book helped me zero-in on exactly where my focus should be depending on the circumstance. To illustrate, when my Mom told me she had plantar fasciitis, I showed my Mom (above) a quick, daily foam rolling program for her calves and legs and that small intervention helped reduce pain in her plantar fascia simply because the line of fascia in the calves also runs into the bottom of the feet. So, by releasing tension in the fascia of her calves, she was also loosening the tension in the bottoms of her feet. Anatomy Trains explains how all of these areas are interconnected in various ways by long, extremely complex, and strong lines of fascia that in some instances span the entire length of the body. So, releasing that fascia in one area, can often alleviate tension and pain in another area if you know the anatomy and physiology of these fascial lines.
Gwenda, a personal trainer from Oklahoma sent me her plantar fasciitis story:
“I have suffered from plantar fasciitis for over a year. I wore arch support inserts, bought new shoes, have iced it, slept with the brace & stretched it diligently, but never got any relief. I’m a fitness instructor so “rest” was never an option – I just worked thru the pain although it was excruciating! I came across the foot wakers and gave them a try. It was uncomfortable at first, but no worse than the pain I had been suffering. After twice a day for a week I started getting relief from the pain. I started using them after every workout in addition to early morning and late evening. The pain started to subside and the times when I had total pain relief were exhilarating! My pain relief typically lasted about 4 hours, but it was relief and that was so much more than I had before.”
Later on, due to Gwenda’s busy exercise class teaching schedule she ended up having a tear in her plantar fascia while teaching an exercise class. Ironically her doctor said the tear caused her to go through the more painful version of the surgery that he would have eventually do on her foot. As I mentioned previously, it is important to rest the damaged tissues so that the damage can heal and so that the intervention(s) you are using can get to work and do the job they are intended to do. Gwenda did not feel comfortable taking time off of teaching classes and although the treatments she was using were working, the constant stress from the exercise classes eventually took its toll. I wonder what could have happened if Gwenda had stopped her exercise class instruction for a couple of weeks and just focused on the stretch, release, support and strengthen interventions she had begun to adopt.
We may never know, but her testimony illustrates two important points:
Podiatrist Recommendations on a Variety of Pain Relief Products and Methods
- Over the counter insoles with firm support (not the kind with gel) to support the plantar fascia and arch while walking
- Superfeet has good support and many people tolerate the arch well
- Sole has a heat mold-able arch that can work well for people who don’t tolerate Superfeet or have a higher arch
- Rolling on a frozen water bottle or a massage ball can help
- Foam rollers help to release tight muscles in the back of the leg (glutes, hamstrings, calves) that contribute to plantar fasciitis
- Compression sleeves designed for plantar fasciitis can be helpful as well. These are great for people who have to stand all day because they provide support and compression on the painful area
- Creams for pain relief can provide temporary relief but the creams don’t penetrate down to the plantar fascia layer to provide lasting relief
Dr. Westfall specifically went on to mention an incredibly important thing to note and that is that a “tight posterior chain (the connective tissues along the back side of the body) can lead to a tight achilles tendon and equinus which can contribute to plantar fascitiis.” Equinus is when a person cannot bring the top of their foot toward their shin (dorsi flexion) enough to perform normal tasks like walking normally without compensating in some way. If the toe of your shoe is constantly catching on the carpet as you walk, this is you. This lack of mobility “indicates a tight achilles tendon along with tight calf muscles (soleus and gastrocnemius)” Dr. Westfall said. She continued to note that these tissues, when tight, limit ankle mobility and can contribute to plantar fasciitis. So it would seem that working to mobilize the ankle joint is of great importance, not only to limit pain associated with plantar fasciitis but to make everyday mobility easier for the body. We know that tight ankles play a role in poor mobility throughout the body and can limit range of motion when walking, running, squatting or bending over. In fact poor ankle mobility is one of the most common things I see in the gym everyday with people who are having trouble doing squatting and dead lifting movements properly. Their ankles are just too tight to allow the movement to happen smoothly so they end up with compensated movement which can lead to injury. One of the cool things about working to improve ankle mobility is that things like foam rolling and stretching are the primary ways to go about mobilizing the ankles, so adopting a good stretching and foam rolling routine will serve multiple purposes in most cases. Start to stretch and foam roll daily and it could help alleviate pain from plantar fasciitis and will help mobilize your ankles which could remove that factor from your foot pain equation entirely.
As a fitness professional I can tell you that a good rule-of-thumb to assess posterior chain mobility is to stand with your feet together and your knees locked. Without bending your knees, bend forward at the hips and try to touch the floor. If you cannot touch the floor while keeping your knees locked, you have a mobility limitation that should be addressed. That was easy to determine wasn’t it? And again, stretching and foam rolling are the most fundamental ways to go about improving in this area as well. So get to rolling and get to stretching!
Here is what the toe touch assessment looks like:
Top 10 Tips for Pain Relief from Plantar Fasciitis
List of the Effective Products Covered in this Article:
I appreciate your time in reading this article and hope that you have found even one small piece of insight that may help you find relief from the pain of plantar fasciitis. Walking around on injured feet is no way to live if you can help it, and you typically can help it. Keep the things we’ve discussed in this article fresh in your mind. Pay attention to the things the physicians featured here have told us and work with your physician to find the right treatment for you that will ensure the most pain relief from plantar fasciitis.
Best to you my friends!
Be well, do good things and love on another!
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