I had never heard of plantar fasciitis until an employee of mine was diagnosed with the condition. He was a warehouse worker that spent 40+ hours per week walking and standing on concrete. He was an older gentleman, so I figured it may have also been a symptom of aging.
And then my wife (under 30 years old at the time) faced the same condition - plantar fasciitis paired with achilles tendinitis in her right foot. She was in optimal athletic shape and was training to run a marathon. Apparently the plantar fasciitis and achilles tendinitis combination is somewhat common among runners. The cause was likely a combo of poor shoe choice and her natural low arch foot. I witnessed her go through daily pain and the disappointment of all her marathon training going to waste.
With the aid of her physical therapist, we began researching products to help her heal quicker, reduce her pain and, ultimately, to get her back on her running plan to continue her dream of running a marathon. Below are some of the products we found to be helpful.
This odd looking boot thing turned out to be a huge help in slowly stretching her achilles and reducing plantar fasciitis pain. The boot is worn at night and keeps both the achilles tendon and plantar fascia lightly stretched while you sleep. The result is less pain in the arch and heel area and, over time, less inflammation.
The best part about this night splint, aside from the alleviation of pain, is that it is very easy to use and inexpensive. We purchased ours online through the recommendation of our physical therapist. Our total cost was around $20 - a cheap investment in relation to my poor wife's misery and suffering.
Amazon Price: $17.49 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 17, 2015)
Heel Gel Pad
The great thing about the night splint above is that it is easy to use and effective. The downside is that, despite being like a boot, it is not for walking. My wife would wear the night splint every night in bed, but around the house she found heel pads that fit around the heel and arch to be optimal.
These heel pads have a gel embedded in them that surrounds the heel and plantar fascia, providing a cushion and shock absorption with each step and thus reducing pain while walking. The pad fits snug to the foot, adding compression to the heel and arch to reduce swelling and to help alleviate pain. We also found that we could place these in the freezer before my wife put them on, which added an ice pack-like benefit. These are great for wearing around the house and can also be worn with shoes.
Amazon Price: $25.00 $17.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 17, 2015)
Yes, a simple golf ball - something just about everyone has somewhere in their garage. The physical therapist told my wife to use a golf ball to massage the bottom of her foot every night while relaxing on the couch. She would start with the front of the foot and work her way back, putting a decent amount of pressure on each area. This technique stimulates blood flow to the massaged areas while also breaking down any adhesion to the plantar fascia. You can also put the golf ball in the freezer before using to add an ice-like effect while massaging.
If you can't find a golf ball or find your foot to be too sensitive for the hardness of a golf ball, try a tennis ball as an alternative. With a tennis ball on the floor, put your affected foot on top and gently roll the ball around the bottom of your foot and heel. You can do this while sitting or standing, just be sure you are balanced and not subject to tipping over. You can also use a water bottle in a similar fashion.
As they say, the best remedy is prevention. Plantar fasciitis can be triggered by a number of causes - some are biological (for example, how your pelvis lines up with your spine) and some are a lack of every day care.
The best way to prevent plantar fasciitis is to take care of your feet. Simple, right? The most important aspect of taking care of your feet is wearing the appropriate shoes. Although we do not know for sure, we and our physical therapist believe my wife's condition was largely influenced by some cheap boots she bought and wore to work (she works as a teacher and is on her feet all day long). The boots were uncomfortable, she will admit, but they looked good! Unfortunately, the combination of bad boots and constantly being on her feet is likely what led to her painful bout with plantar fasciitis.
Stretching is a great prevention, especially if you spend a lot of time on your feet or are training for a long run. Focus on the achilles tendon and the back of the foot and heel. Doing this before exercising will help reduce your chance of injury.
Maintain a healthy weight level. Adding too many pounds to the body puts a strain on your feet. This can also lead to improper form and posture. Keep a healthy diet and appropriate exercise routine. Not only will this help prevent plantar fasciitis, but many other health conditions as well.
In my wife's case, she felt some discomfort and pain while running to train for her marathon. This is the first sign that something is not right - she should have stopped training and sought a medical opinion. Had she done this her symptoms would likely have been quite a bit less and she may have been able to prevent the achilles tendinitis and lessen the plantar fasciitis.
In the end, my wife had to quit running for over eight weeks. She was able to maintain a light exercise routine on an elliptical at the gym and slow walk on a treadmill. Despite being advised to skip the marathon, she still pursued it and was able to finish! Her time was much longer than she had originally hoped and she battled some pain during the 26.2 miles, but she finished. It may not have been the best decision to continue with the marathon, but either way she did it and I was extremely proud of her. Afterwards she rested and took time off of running to make sure she was fully healed.