What is plantar fasciitis?
To understand this, we must first understand what the plantar fascia is and what its function is. The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band that originates at the heel and runs underneath the foot to the toes. The function of the plantar fascia is to act as support for the arch and allow us to propel forward. A good way to think of this is as if the foot is a suspension bridge and the plantar fascia act as the cable to stabilize the bridge.
Now we have some understanding of what the plantar fascia’s function is we can start to look into the condition plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury commonly causing pain at the heel. Symptoms generally involve a sharp, stabbing pain at the heel. The pain is often worst at the first step of the morning or after periods of rest.
There are a multitude of risk factors that can contribute to the onset of plantar fasciitis. Some of these common risk factors include:
- Increase BMI/Weight Gain
- Long periods of standing
- Foot types (high arch/flat foot)
- Calf tightness
- Change in activity level (training error)
- Biomechanical abnormalities
- Inappropriate footwear
Plantar fasciitis is a condition that will often response and resolve with conservative treatment. As the condition is associated with an increased load on the plantar fascia, the management is spearheaded by load management. Foot orthoses, footwear and strengthening/stretching exercises are primary treatment options in achieving this load management.
In this article, I have included 5 exercises to solve your heel pain. These exercises along with specific tailored treatment will help get you back on the road to recovery for your heel pain. If you foot pain continues to persist, I recommend seeking specialist treatment from your local podiatrist or health professional.
5 exercises to solve your heel pain
Heel pain, the most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. This is an overuse condition that is caused from several factors. Management
1. Upper calf stretches (gastrocnemius)
Pressing against a wall with your front leg bent and back leg straight, lean your body forward until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg. Hold. 2 minutes 3 times a day.
2. Lower calf stretches (soleus)
Pressing against a wall with one foot in front of the other and your knees bent, drop your hips down towards the ground, bending your back knee further, until you feel a stretch. Keep the heel of your back leg down and feet pointing forwards. Hold. 2 minutes 3 times a day.
3. Foot (plantar fascia) stretches
Option 1 - Sit in a chair with one leg crossed over the other. Grasp the toes of the foot on top and gently pull them back toward the shin until you feel a stretch in the arch. Hold for 20 seconds then relax and repeat. 10 repetitions 3 times a day.
Option 2 - Place your toes in a flexed position up against a step. Slowly bend your knee until you feel a stretch. Hold. 2 minutes 3 times a day.
4. Plantar fascia/calf strengthening
Stand with your toes extended over a towel roll (1) and slowly rise as high as you can (over 3 seconds), ensuring your toes are fully extended (2). Hold for 2 seconds then lower (over 3 seconds) & repeat. Start with 3 x 12reps. After 2 weeks, add load by wearing a weighted backpack &perform 4 x 10 reps. After another 2 weeks, add more load & perform 5 x8 reps.
5. Foot strengthening
sitting, place your foot flat on the floor and forward from your knee (1). Visualise your toe joints as your try to pull them along the floor towards your heel (2). During the exercise maintain floor-contact with the ball of your foot and your heel, concentrating on keeping your toes straight (not allowing them to 'scrunch'). Hold for 1-3 seconds then relax and repeat.
6. Banded Talus Mobilisation (optional extra)
Secure a strong band, to a (low) fixed object behind you. Loop the band around your foot (below your ankle bones) and place your foot on a stable chair or box in front of you with the band stretched to a high tension. Lunge forwards (gliding your knee over the midline of your foot) to stretch into ankle dorsiflexion. Slowly back off then repeat this mobilisation for the prescribed time.