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Are You at Risk for Developing Plantar Fasciitis?

ankle pain

Ouch! If you’ve ever had plantar fasciitis, you know just how excruciating those first few steps are when you get out of bed in the morning. It can feel like you’re stepping on a knife as the tight connective tissue on the bottom of your foot stretches out. 

What Exactly is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia, or connective tissue along the bottom of your foot, gets tight, swollen and irritated. Plantar fascia is a flat band of connective tissue that runs from your heel bone to your toes. It helps provide stability for the arch of your foot but can cause problems when it gets inflamed.

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain due to the insertion point of the plantar fascia along the calcaneus, or heel bone. Pain is also common in the arch of the foot and the ball of the foot where the fascia stretches to attach to bony prominences along the bottom of your mid-foot.  

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis commonly occurs in adolescent athletes, soldiers and the middle aged population who are on their feet often. Repeated strain on the plantar fascia leads to irritation and inflammation, causing pain with weight bearing, walking and running. Over time, repeated straining of the plantar fascia can cause microtears in the ligaments, leading to increased pain.

You are at an increased risk for developing plantar fasciitis if you:

  • Have high arches or flat feet
  • If you are overweight
  • If you have ill-fitting shoes
  • If you frequently wear high heels
  • If you don’t use proper arch support
  • If you overpronate (your feet roll inward when you walk)
  • If you stand on hard surfaces for prolonged periods of time
  • If you run on unstable surfaces
  • If you have tight calf muscles or Achilles tendons

Loosening Your Fascia

To help loosen the tight band of fascia on the bottom of your foot, which can feel like a thick rope or big marbles, roll your foot on a tennis ball, lacrosse ball or a frozen water bottle for a few minutes each day. Using a frozen water bottle gives you the added benefit of the ice’s natural anti-inflammatory properties, helping reduce the irritation in the tissues along the bottom of your foot. Yes, it will hurt. Yes, it’s worth the pain.

Consistent stretching is also vital to improve the tissue extensibility of your plantar fascia. As a therapist, I’m on my feet all day long. I use Super Feet arch supports in my sneakers and replace them every few months due to normal wear and tear, but if I don’t stretch my calves and roll my plantar fascia on a regular basis, I’ll definitely feel those sharp, stabbing pains when I get up in the morning. This is the ugly recurrent nature of plantar fasciitis. It can become a chronic problem if you don’t address the underlying issue and consistently stretch.

Here are several stretches that will help alleviate some of the soft tissue restrictions commonly found with plantar fasciitis.

Gastrocnemius Stretch: Your gastrocnemius is the largest, outer most calf muscle. It runs from your calcaneus (heel bone) to your femur (thigh bone). Since it crosses your knee joint, it’s important to keep your knee straight to isolate the muscle and reap the full benefits of the stretch. Stagger your feet into a lunge position and place your hands against a wall. Gently lunge forward, keeping your back foot on the ground, until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat it three times.

Soleus Stretch: Your soleus is a smaller calf muscle that sits below and underneath your gastrocnemius. It runs from your calcaneus (heel bone) to your tibia (lower leg bone). Since it doesn’t cross your knee joint, it’s important to bend your knee to isolate the muscle. Stagger your feet into a lunge position, but shorten your lunge stance so that your feet are closer together. Gently bend both knees and lunge forward, keeping your back foot on the ground, until you feel a stretch in your lower calf. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times.

Plantar Fascia Stretch: Your plantar fascia runs from your calcaneus (heel bone) to your metatarsals (mid-foot bones just below your toes). To stretch your plantar fascia, sit in a cross-legged, figure four position and pull the ball of your foot and toes toward your shin bone until you feel a stretch in the bottom of your foot. If you aren’t flexible enough to cross your leg, you can perform this stretch by hanging your heels off the edge of a step. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times.

If you suspect you have plantar fasciitis, or are suffering from any other heel pain, call our office today at 703-450-4300 to schedule an evaluation. We will teach you how to manage your symptoms with a home exercise program, relieve your pain with hands-on manual therapy and strengthen your foot intrinsic muscles and leg muscles to increase your stability and decrease your chances of having a recurrent flare-up. For more information on foot and ankle injuries, CLICK THE LINK:

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