Heel pain is a very common phenomenon for adults. If you feel mild to severe pain underneath your heel, or directly behind it, you most likely have some form of Plantar Fasciitis.
Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common causes of foot pain affecting as much as 10 percent of the population. Every year 2 million Americans get treated for plantar fasciitis. If you are one of the millions who suffer from plantar fasciitis, you’re not alone.
Certain people are more prone to plantar fasciitis than others. This is commonly a problem among some of these people:
- People who stand on a hard surfaces all day: teachers, retail workers, factory workers, etc.
- People with very flat feet or very high arches
- People who are overweight
- Women are more prone than men
- People between 40 and 60
While this term may sound scary, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have an incurable issue. In most cases, Plantar Fasciitis can go away on its own. If you have a moderate case of it, it might be time to try some home remedies to help loosen up those muscles and relieve your heel pain.
If you’re suffering from severe Plantar Fasciitis that has you disable to any degree, your best option to go see a podiatrist and possibly get a prescription and treatment plan that can help.
If you’re like the majority of people who have more moderate Plantar Fasciitis, there are plenty of home remedies you can try to alleviate the inflammation and heal up at home.
Table of Contents
- Towel Stretch: Do this before getting out of bed to reduce morning foot pain. Sit on a bed or on the floor. Extend your affected leg straight out in front of you. Put a rolled towel around your foot and gently pull the towel towards yourself. You should feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat 2 to 4 times. This is 1 set. Do 2 to 4 sets each day.
- Toe Stretch: Sit in a chair. Extend your affected leg out until the heel of your foot is planted on the floor. Reach down and grab your toes with one hand. Pull your toes back towards your face. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat 2 to 4 times. This is 1 set. Do 2 to 4 sets each day.
- Standing Calf Stretch: Stand facing a wall. Place both hands on the wall at eye level. Put your affected leg a step behind your other leg. Make sure your back leg is straight with its heel on the floor. Bend your front knee and lean forward until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat 2 to 4 times. This is 1 set. Do 2 to 4 sets each day.
- Calf Stretch on A Step: This stretches both your calf muscle and your plantar fascia. Stand on a step. Place the ball of your affected foot on the edge of the step so that the heel of that foot hangs out beyond the edge of the step. Lower the heel of your affected foot down below the edge of the step until you feel a stretch across the bottom of your feet and in your calf muscle. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat 2 to 4 times. This is 1 set. Do 2 to 4 sets each day.
Towel Stretch: Do this before getting out of bed to reduce morning foot pain. Sit on a bed or on the floor. Extend your affected leg straight out in front of you. Put a rolled towel around your foot and gently pull the towel towards yourself. You should feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat 2 to 4 times. This is 1 set. Do 2 to 4 sets each day.
Toe Stretch: Sit in a chair. Extend your affected leg out until the heel of your foot is planted on the floor. Reach down and grab your toes with one hand. Pull your toes back towards your face. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat 2 to 4 times. This is 1 set. Do 2 to 4 sets each day.
Standing Calf Stretch: Stand facing a wall. Place both hands on the wall at eye level. Put your affected leg a step behind your other leg. Make sure your back leg is straight with its heel on the floor. Bend your front knee and lean forward until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat 2 to 4 times. This is 1 set. Do 2 to 4 sets each day.
Calf Stretch on A Step: This stretches both your calf muscle and your plantar fascia. Stand on a step. Place the ball of your affected foot on the edge of the step so that the heel of that foot hangs out beyond the edge of the step. Lower the heel of your affected foot down below the edge of the step until you feel a stretch across the bottom of your feet and in your calf muscle. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat 2 to 4 times. This is 1 set. Do 2 to 4 sets each day.
Plantar Fasciitis responds especially well to deep tissue massages than use slow, strong movements to release tension and break up scar tissue that may have built up.
If done properly, you may feel a little soreness the next day, but it is a great way to reduce inflammation and help your plantar fascia to heal properly. Focus on the most painful area, and give a little attention to the surrounding muscles.
The best way to massage away your plantar fasciitis is of course a foot massage. However, there are multiple types of techniques that can help you ease the pain and tension in your feet. Let’s take a look at some of the common foot massages that may help you:
Ball Massage: Sit in a chair. Put a tennis or golf ball under the arch of your affected foot. Lean forward to put pressure on the ball. Slowly roll the ball up and down your foot. Then roll it side to side. Gradually increase the pressure on the ball as you roll it. Roll ball for about 1 minute.
Ice Massage: Similar to ball massage but it is done with a frozen bottle of water instead of a ball. Sit in a chair. Slowly roll a frozen bottle of water up and down your affected foot. Then roll it left and right. Do this for 5 minutes.
Calf Massage: Sit in a chair. Cross your affected leg over the top of your other leg. Use both of your hands to squeeze and knead the calf muscle of your affected leg. Work up and down your leg. Knead for 5 minutes.
The Push & Pull Technique: This one is pretty self-explanatory. First, push in with your thumb on the affected area in short strokes. You can do this for a couple of minutes before moving onto the pulling movements.
To “pull” apply pressure from the inside of the foot to the outside of the foot, all across both feet. This will help to ease the inflammation within your muscles and ligaments.
Toe Massage: Do the same movements you did with the push & pull technique, but also stretch your toes backward towards your shins. This helps to stretch the plantar fascia across the foot. This is a good exercise to do even if you aren’t suffering from Plantar Fasciitis pains at the moment.
It can help to increase the strength and flexibility of the plantar fascia, making it more resistant to injury.
Tens Unit: You can crank up a nice electric massage with a TENS unit. Follow the instructions on your unit, and use it on the afflicted area for 10-15 minutes to help loosen your muscles and get some pain relief.
Foam Roller: Using a foam roller is a really simple but effective way to massage your legs and feet.
All you have to do is roll it up and down the backs of your calves, and the bottoms of your feet for a few minutes to help relax all the muscles and ease tension. Foam rollers also help to encourage blood flow through your muscles.
If resting, icing, stretches, exercises, and massages do not help, you can consider the option to visit a doctor. or can prescribe other treatments such as anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections.
Supportive shoes are an ideal tool if you’re required to stay on your feet with Plantar Fasciitis. If you aren’t having a flare-up, supportive shoes can also help prevent future issues with your plantar fascia.
Make sure your shoes fit well and have a nice padded sole to support the heel, arch, and the Achilles tendon of your foot. This will reduce the risk of strain and injury to your plantar fascia. You’ll want shoes that fit snugly, but don’t put uncomfortable amounts of pressure anywhere on your feet.
If you’re struggling to recover from Plantar Fasciitis, or you’re suffering from a chronic case, one of the first thing you may want to consider is wearing the right shoes for Plantar Fasciitis.
Related: Best Shoes For Plantar Fasciitis
If you work in an industry that has you standing or walking all day, you’re probably at a higher risk for Plantar Fasciitis. You might already be feeling some heel pain at the end of the day. This means your plantar fascia is being strained by the constant pressure that standing all day causes.
It’s important to choose the right type of work boot to help your Plantar Fasciitis. Here are some features that you’ll want to look for:
- Flexible midsole and insole for proper arch support. A rigid shoe can add stress to the plantar fascia while walking.
- Quality and comfortable materials that can hold your weight all-day
- Safety features such as steel-toe if necessary
While it may be hard to find running shoes that cater to people who suffer from Plantar Fasciitis, there are some features you can look for that will help you keep exercising without damaging your plantar fascia.
You’ll want a shoe that can provide plenty of flexible support for your arches and heel. Here are some things to look for in a running shoe that will help your plantar fascia stay strong:
- Arch support
- Extra cushion/shock absorption in the soles
- A deep heel cup for full flexibility and range of motion
Unfortunately, sandals don’t typically provide as much support as shoes. In fact, it is a good idea to avoid flip-flops altogether. They are much too flimsy and do not provide enough support for your arches. Here are some features to look for in sandals:
- High arches
- Thick soles that still have some flex
When you apply an ice pack to an area of your body, it restricts the blood flow to that area. Your blood vessels shrink, your nerves become numb, and it generally reduces swelling and pain.
Swelling is caused by an excess of blood flow to an injured area, which typically leads to more pain around the injury.
How to use ice for your Plantar Fasciitis
There’s a little more to it than just slapping an ice pack onto your ankle and calling it a day. To get the fullest effect of icing your injury, you’ll want to pair it with rest, elevation, and compression if you have a good pair of compression socks.
This combination will help reduce overall swelling and pain, and hopefully shorten your recovery time. Here are some tips to help you while using an ice pack:
- Always use a barrier between your skin and the ice pack. You don’t want it to be in direct contact with your skin. A dishtowel works perfectly for this.
- To give your injury a little compression, you can use a cold wrap, or a tightly wrapped towel around your ankle to keep the ice pack firmly pressed to your injury. Some companies make specially design ankle ice packs just for this purpose.
- Keep your foot elevated at or above your heart. Lay down and prop your foot up on one or two pillows to help keep swelling to a minimum.
- Use the ice pack for 15 minutes, then remove it. Do this a few times, making sure to give your leg a proper break from the ice pack every 15 minutes.
You can also try pairing your ice pack usage with a massage for your foot! Stretching and massage can be a great way to help loosen up your injured ligament, as well as the surrounding muscles and tendons. You can do this using just a frozen plastic water bottle.
- Use a disposable plastic water bottle and fill it three-quarters full of water.
- Take the cap off and put it in the freezer. (Removing the cap allows the bottle to freeze more evenly).
- After the bottle freezes completely, put the cap back on and remove the bottle from the freezer.
- Sit down in a chair and place the frozen bottle on its side on the ground.
- Using a nice, gentle pressure, roll your foot over the bottle. Make sure to go all the way to the back of your heel to fully massage the plantar fascia. For best results, do this twice a day for just 10 minutes at a time.
What if I don’t have time for ice and a massage?
Time may not always allow you to use each of the techniques listed above. Here are a few times when it is crucial to ice, even if you don’t have time for a long session of recovery.
- After strenuous exercise
Icing your foot after a workout is very important if you’re having flare-ups of Plantar Fasciitis. After a long run or a particularly heavy workout, your plantar fascia may be overly stressed. Icing it will help you to recover quickly and reduce the chance of swelling.
- Before bed
If you’re having a rather painful flare-up of Plantar Fasciitis, using ice can help to numb the nerves and reduce your foot pain. If you find that ice isn’t helping, you can always try an over-the-counter medicine to help reduce pain and swelling.
We have discussed on how to use cold therapy for Acute Plantar Fasciitis. But what about Chronic Plantar Fasciitis? Acute Plantar Fasciitis is caused by an injury to the plantar fascia. Chronic Plantar Fasciitis has no specific cause and tends to get worse over time.
Unfortunately, Chronic Plantar Fasciitis is more of a degenerative condition than the acute variety. It’s caused by everyday stress on the plantar fascia. Poor flexibility of the Achilles tendon and the calf muscle can be contributing factors as well.
Heat therapy can play a big part in reducing the risk factors and managing Chronic Plantar Fasciitis. When you apply heat to an injury, it widens your blood vessels and allows more blood to flow into the injury.
You need to be careful not to overdo it while using a heating pad. Too much heat can lead to an increase in swelling.
How to use heat for your Chronic Plantar Fasciitis
Using heat on an injury looks a little different than using ice.
- Use a heating pad for at least 20 minutes at a time. You may even find that over an hour gives you the most benefits.
- Soak your injured area in a warm bath, or use a towel to wrap a heating pad around your heel and arch.
- For Chronic Plantar Fasciitis, you can alternate between heat therapy and cold therapy to help promote blood flow while reducing swelling and pain.
- Never use heat therapy while you sleep! You might end up with burns or skin injuries.
Tools used for heat therapy
- Heat Pads
You’ll be able to find heat pads in many larger retail stores and all over the internet. These will help to provide an easily controlled temperature for your injury. Simply make sure that your heel and arch are completely covered by the pad. Remember that the plantar fascia ligament runs from your heel to your toes on the underside of the foot.
- Warm Baths
If you don’t have access to a heating pad, a nice hot bath will do the trick as well. You can fill a bucket with hot water and submerge your foot if you don’t want to get into a tub. Be sure to get the water hot enough to reach your deep ligaments, but don’t get it so hot that it burns your skin.
- Foam Rollers or Massage Balls
Using tools like foam rollers can help to encourage blood flow and loosen up the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the feet. Just sit on a chair or couch and roll the massage ball or roller under your feet. Apply a gentle but firm pressure from the balls of your feet to the backs of your heels for the full effect. Some massage balls can be heated in the microwave to combine the effects of heat therapy and massage therapy.
Heat vs Ice Treatment
You’ve probably heard about this before. When your muscles are sore, or you have an injury, you’re supposed to use ice packs and heat pads to help soothe them.
But is that the case for every muscle and joint injury? Plantar Fasciitis is caused by tears and stress to the plantar fascia, a thick ligament that connects the back of your heel to your toes.
Ligaments are very different from muscles, and thus they require a different treatment when they are injured. Muscles connect our joints and bones with the help of tendons. On the other hand, ligaments attach bone-to-bone with nothing in between.
Stronger muscles around the ligaments can help to prevent injuries, but it can be hard to strengthen the ligament itself. So back to the question of cold therapy vs. heat therapy for Plantar Fasciitis:
If you have an acute injury, you’ll want to use cold therapy. If you have a chronic injury, then you’ll want to use heat therapy to treat your Plantar Fasciitis.
Now that we’ve learned how to best use hot and cold therapy, it’s time to learn how to put the two together. Using both heat packs and ice packs in alternating intervals is known as contrast therapy. Contrast therapy is a great tool to help you recover from injury faster. Here are some tips to help you get started.
- Always start with cold therapy. It will help to stop inflammation, and give you some pain relief right from the beginning.
- Always end with cold therapy too.
- Use an ice pack for just one minute, and then switch to a heat pack for three minutes. (If using cold and hot water, use the same time periods).
- Make sure that your heel and arch are completely covered throughout your contrast therapy.
Again, you’ll want to use only cold therapy at the very beginning of your Acute Plantar Fasciitis. After a few days you can switch to contrast therapy to help speed up your recovery.
Pick a time during the day when you can devote a solid period of time to alternate between hot and cold treatments. This will help tremendously with Chronic Plantar Fasciitis.
When the plantar fascia is injured, it becomes stiff and harder to move. Typically, we rely on this ligament to be somewhat elastic. This is what allows us to walk, run, and move around with ease on our feet. Athletic tape can help to support the arch and heel of the foot. By assisting it during movement, it helps prevent extra wear-and-tear on the plantar fascia. This support will also help it to recover faster.
You can even use it if you haven’t injured your plantar fascia. Here are some great benefits to taping:
- Injury prevention
- Improved circulation
- Pain relief
- Added support for injured areas
- Increased performance
How to apply athletic tape for Plantar Fasciitis:
Once you purchase your athletic tape, you should find the tape to be thick and not very stretchy. This allows it to provide firm support for your foot.
You’re going to need both a 1-inch roll and a 3-inch roll of athletic tape, as well as a pair of scissors to do this.
- Using the 1-inch tape, cut a length to fit from the base of your big toe, around your heel, and over to the base of your pinky toe on the opposite side.
- Using the 3-inch tape, place a strap just below the ball of your foot that goes across your foot, attaching to both sides of the 1-inch tape. Repeat this process along your arch by overlapping the straps about halfway.
- Using more 1-inch tape, cover the ends of the cross straps. For more compression, use another strap over the tops of the base of your toes. Connect it to the strap that runs along the back and sides of your foot.
You can purchase specialty products called stretch socks that are specifically designed to help you with plantar fasciitis while you sleep. These socks keep your heel stretched out overnight so you won’t wake up with inflamed heels. You can also try using muscle tape to help hold everything in place.
Special insoles are also available to help you take it easy on your feet. You can go to your doctor and get a custom fit, or simply purchase some over-the-counter models. These are perfect if you aren’t able to get off your feet and allow the problem to repair with rest. You can also purchase some other options to help ease Plantar Fasciitis pain:
- Massage balls
- Compression stockings
- Ice packs
- Heating pads
This extremely lightweight, adjustable & breathable foot brace is designed for people suffering from plantar fasciitis as well as providing heel, ankle & Achilles tendinitis relief.
Also featuring sturdy arch support, these easy to wear braces are made to help people get back on their feet after an accident or otherwise debilitating condition.
They have an adjustable aluminum strip that conforms to your feet for extra support so you never again have to worry about the steps you take when walking inside or out.
These high quality and carefully designed feet braces have been designed to treat people who have either gone through a recent accident or who suffer from painful feet conditions such as plantar fasciitis.
They feature an adjustable and elastic dorsal construction that can provide the heel, ankle, arch and Achilles tendinitis relief so you can sit back and relax without fear of pain and hassles when moving your legs.
They also include a hard, spiky massage ball for extra comfort.
Dr. Scholl’s orthodontic inserts are meticulously designed to assist people who suffer when walking due to painful feet conditions such as plantar fasciitis.
They can bring you the support you need when walking around either in the comfort of your home or on long walks outside.
Their shock guard technology provides immediate pain relief so you can focus on your day to day activities without having to stop due to uncomfortable heel pain.
They are full length and can fit into any shoe you have.
Rest (Most Effective)
As more than 90% of Plantar Fasciitis does recover by itself naturally and it could take up to approximately 6 months, probably the most effective thing you can do for your plantar fascia is to let it rest.
It’s inevitable to have to go to work but take a longer break from outdoor activities such as sports & recreation. If you must work out, you can go swimming at the pool (Not at the beach because it requires a long walk on the sand).
To fully heal these small tears and reduce the inflammation, your feet need to rest. If you can’t rest completely, at least try to avoid activities that will further irritate your condition such as vigorous walking and running.
Plantar Fasciitis Causes
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation or degeneration of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.
Daily walking and running lead to repeated stressing of your plantar fascia, which then could lead to inflammation and ultimately plantar fasciitis. Although the exact mechanism of how this happens is still unclear.
So what causes all this stress? There are actually a lot of different things that can put your plantar fascia under tension and cause these small tears. This list typically includes:
- Unsupportive shoes. Shoes that don’t fit right just won’t cut it for preventing plantar fasciitis. Neither will worn-out shoes, or shoes that provide no support for your arches. Remember, the plantar fascia’s goal is to help hold up your arch, so give it some support!
- Excess Weight. Being overweight can put too much extra strain on the plantar fascia. Your feet have to support your whole body, so too many extra pounds can lead to too much strain on your feet.
- Exercise. Of course, exercise is great for you! However, high-impact exercises such as running, and many sports can lead to plantar fasciitis if the feet and muscles are not properly taken care of after activities.
- Age. If you’re over 40 years old, your risk of getting Plantar Fasciitis goes up. This risk can be lowered through stretching and foot exercises.
- Standing for a Long Time. Being on your feet all day can put serious stress on your plantar fascia. Service employees, factory workers, teachers, and any other job that puts you on your feet all day can increase the risk of Plantar Fasciitis.
- Foot Problems (Genetic or Chronic). If your feet overpronate (roll your feet inward) when you walk, or you have high arches, it can put extra stress on your plantar fascia.
- Tense Muscles. Remember to stretch after you exercise! Tight calf and foot muscles can play a big factor in plantar fascia stress.
How to Check if You Have Plantar Fasciitis
If you are experiencing sharp pain in your foot arches or heels you might have plantar fasciitis. Do you feel a stabbing foot pain when you take your first steps in the morning?
That is another possible sign. As you move around the pain usually subsides. But you might feel that pain coming back after standing around for a long time or getting up from sitting.
As the day goes on your pain might gradually get worse, especially during evenings. Your pain probably will not worsen during a workout. But after exercising it is not uncommon for the pain to get worse.
Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms
Plantar Fasciitis isn’t always the cause of heel pain, but as we’ve said it is the most common. The typical symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis are:
- Sharp pain near the heel
- Moderate to severe pain after rising in the morning that improves after walking
- Stiffness in the foot after rising
- Pain in the foot that gets worse throughout the day
- Pain after going up or down stairs
- Pain after standing for long periods of time
- Pain that flares up after, but not during exercise
- Tenderness, swelling, or inflammation around the foot
If you have any combination of these symptoms, you should see your podiatrist to get their opinion. You may very well have Plantar Fasciitis
My Personal Experience
In my case, I have visited the doctor, tried all treatments above other than taping and temperature treatment, but nothing worked. I was worried that this might go on for the rest of my life.
My podiatrist said the recovery result could be this and it could be that. I do have faith in doctors but personally, I believe it’s none of his speculations.
I rest at home a lot and I avoided physical activity as much as I can, and it naturally got better in weeks, and then it magically went away in 2 months.
Keep resting and monitoring your recovery and make sure to visit your podiatrist if your pain is not getting better. Instead of trying to figure out how to heal it faster, try to focus on how not to make it worse and let time heal it naturally.
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