Heel pain is a common problem. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, plantar fasciitis is the most prevalent cause of heel pain, affecting 2 million adults annually. The plantar fascia is the dense cord on the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes and supporting the arch. This tissue can become injured due to overuse or being overweight and out of shape. Plantar fasciitis is characterized by Intense heel pain with the first few steps after sleep or rest and typically subsides with use as the tissue warms up and stretches.
Rest, Ice and Check Your Shoes
The most effective home remedy for heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis is rest. Avoid the aggravating activity. For active people, this is often running, power walking or other high impact exercise. Choose a low impact replacement such as cycling, swimming or rowing. Icing can also help relieve symptoms. An easy way to ice the plantar fascia is to roll the arch on a frozen water bottle. Replace old, worn-out shoes with new supportive ones.
Stretching is Key
According to a review of plantar fasciitis in the winter 2014 issue of "The Permanente Journal," stretching the plantar fascia is the most effective long-term treatment for plantar fasciitis. To stretch the plantar fascia, while seated, cross the foot over the opposite knee. Grasp the toes and gently pull back to stretch the arch. With the other hand, massage the arch while you hold the stretch. Another stretching option is to roll the foot on a tennis ball. Using one or both of these stretches, complete three minutes of stretches, three times daily.
Don't Forget the Calf Muscles
Stretching the calf is also important and effective in plantar fasciitis treatment. Use a towel like a strap to stretch the calf from a seated position with the legs extended in front. Wrap the towel around the ball of the foot and gently pull back to stretch the calf. Another calf stretch can be done from a standing position. Lean into a wall or railing, supporting yourself with your hands. Extend the affected leg behind you with knee straight and the heel flat on the floor. Complete 3 minutes of calf stretches, 3 times daily.
If You are Overweight and De-Conditioned
Being overweight or obese increases your risk for developing plantar fasciitis. Overweight, middle-aged women are at higher risk. Weight loss is recommended to lessen the force on the plantar fascia. Strengthening exercises for the foot may also help. Practice picking up marbles with the toes to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the foot. Start with 20 marbles on the floor. Pick them up 1 by 1 with your toes and place them in a box. Complete 3 sets.
When to See a Doctor
Plantar fasciitis can be slow to heal, taking up to a year or longer to completely resolve. But these home remedies should provide some relief from acute pain. Rest alone should provide significant relief within 7 to 10 days. If not, make an appointment to see your doctor. Also, If your pain doesn't fit the classic symptom of morning pain in the central heel that subsides with moderate activity, plantar fasciitis might not be the culprit. See your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
- Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy: Clinical Practice Guidelines, Heel Pain -- Plantar Fasciitis
- Annals of Internal Medicine: Plantar Fasciitis
- Alternative Medicine Review: Plantar Fasciitis
- The Permanente Journal: Plantar Fasciitis -- A Concise Review
- Journal of Research in Medical Sciences: Plantar Fasciitis
- Heel That Pain