In a hustling, bustling world where we’re constantly on the go, it’s estimated that 1 in 10 middle-aged adults will develop an uncomfortable foot ailment known as plantar fasciitis.1 Left untreated, this condition can cause chronic pain that makes the simplest tasks—like stepping out of bed—feel as though you were scaling Everest with a nail digging into your heel.
If you want to know how to prevent plantar fasciitis, or you’re looking for strategies to minimize its negative impact on your daily activities, you’re in the right place. Our experts have compiled a list of 8 plantar fasciitis self-care strategies you can implement as an essential facet of your health and wellness routine.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis in the Foot?
If you want to know how to avoid plantar fasciitis, you’ll need to first do your homework. What is plantar fasciitis? How does it develop? What are the risk factors that exacerbate the condition?
The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that extends from the heel bone (calcaneus) to the base of the toes on the sole of the foot. It serves as the body’s natural shock absorber, providing arch support and stability, especially during dynamic weight-bearing activities like walking, running, jumping, or suddenly stopping.
As a person ages, this tissue naturally degenerates over time. However, excessive tension on the tissue can cause micro-tears to form throughout the fascia, resulting in inflammation and edema. The condition is typically characterized by intense localized heel pain.2
In addition to heel pain, there are several common symptoms associated with plantar fasciitis, including:
- Morning stiffness
- Presence of heel spurs
- Tightness in Achilles tendon
- Tingling sensations throughout the foot
- Discomfort after rest
- Secondary problems with knees, hip, and back
Risk Factors for Developing Plantar Fasciitis
While the exact causes of plantar fasciitis are not fully understood, research suggests that both genetic factors and individual behavior play significant roles in determining the risk of developing this condition. Common risk factors include:3
- Age – Plantar fasciitis is especially common for people between the ages of 40 and 60.
- Reduced ankle dorsiflexion – When individuals have reduced flexibility in their ankles, their foot tends to overpronate, which places additional stress on the plantar fascia.
- Certain activities and exercises – For active middle-aged individuals certain sports and physical activities, such as ballet, long-distance running, or sports with quick cuts or jumping movements, can increase the risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
- Foot types – People with flat feet, high arches, or abnormal walks are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis.
- Obesity – Excess body weight places a significant burden on the feet. The added pressure on the plantar fascia can lead to increased stress, strain, and inflammation, making individuals more susceptible to developing plantar fasciitis while exacerbating the severity of pain experienced.
- Types of job – If you spend most of the day working on your feet, particularly on hard surfaces, you’re more likely to develop plantar fasciitis.
How to Help Plantar Fasciitis
Here’s the good news. With proper treatment and self-care for plantar fasciitis, 80% of patients will improve within 12 months of diagnosis.4
To that end, we’ve compiled a list of actionable plantar fasciitis prevention tips:
#1 Regularly Stretch
A plantar fasciitis self-care regimen begins and ends with routine stretching, literally. By bookending your day with 10-minute stretching sessions you can loosen the muscles and tendons in the foot, ankle, and calves while ensuring proper blood flow to the extremities.
Though you should be sure to consult with a medical professional if you are experiencing symptoms of plantar fasciitis, here are a few at-home calf stretch exercises to help relieve associated discomfort:
- Standing on the balls of your feet and leaning your torso forward, slowly bend your knees and hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds. Then, return your legs to the starting position and repeat the movement three times.
- Begin by standing with your legs hip-width apart. Lunge forward with one leg, elongating the calf muscle on the opposing side.
- Cross your inflamed heel across the other knee while seated, firmly supporting your toes with the opposite hand. Pull your toes in slowly, hold for a moment, and then release.
- Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched, and wrap an elastic exercise band over the arch of your foot. Slowly point your toes forward while holding the band in each hand. Hold for a few seconds, then release and repeat 5 to 10 times.
- Place a spherical, hard object, such as a golf ball or a bouncy ball, beneath the arch of your foot while sitting erect on a chair. For one to two minutes, gently move your foot forth and back across the item.
#2 Apply Ice Packs
Cold and heat often play a key role in the treatment of almost any injury or ailment. And plantar fasciitis is no exception. Applying an ice pack to your heels, feet, and calves for 20 minutes at a time can numb the areas, providing localized pain relief while reducing inflammation.
To that end, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- To protect your skin, wrap the ice pack in a small towel before applying it.
- Follow the 20-minute rule: 20 minutes on ice, then 20 minutes off.
- Consider using a frozen water bottle to roll under your foot for an ideal icing and massage combo.
#3 Massage the Foot
Who doesn’t love a good massage? Especially if you’re experiencing plantar fasciitis pain, a self-massage or friendly foot rub from a loved one can help ease tension, improve blood flow, and reduce pain built up in the foot. For an effective foot massage, follow these steps:
- Apply mild yet firm pressure to the arch of your foot using your thumbs.
- Begin from the ball of your foot and work your way down to the heel bone, crossing the arches as you go.
- Try a golf or tennis ball to roll under your foot.
- Don’t forget to massage your calves too, as tight calf muscles can contribute to plantar fasciitis.
#4 Eat Healthy and Consider a Weight-Loss Program
Obesity is one of the primary co-morbidities not just of normal plantar fasciitis, but also for cases of severe plantar fasciitis. Carrying extra body weight can place undue stress on your arches, heels, and calves that, over time, exacerbate swelling and tension in the plantar fascia.
By maintaining a healthy weight, you can reduce strain on your plantar fascia, while also improving your overall health and well-being. To that end, consider this weight-management advice:
- Maintain a balanced diet, rich in vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and fruits.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each day.
- Opt for low-impact exercises like walking, swimming or cycling that won’t place additional stress on your feet.
- Consider activities that improve balance and strengthen the foot muscles like stretching and yoga.
#5 Don’t Go Barefoot
You may love nothing more than the feeling of grass beneath your toes, but going barefoot, especially on hard surfaces, can place additional stress on your plantar fascia, especially if you’re flat-footed.
High-quality shoes for plantar fasciitis are designed to take some of the additional stress off the heel and arches. Particularly for dynamic movements, they can provide a much-needed cushion that absorbs the repeated shocks to the foot.
#6 Wear High-Quality Shoes
Give your feet a gift by sprucing up your sneaker game. Sometimes, the best home plantar fasciitis treatment is as simple as slipping into the proper pair of shoes. While we all love to make a fashion statement, when it comes to plantar fasciitis, functionality should be the primary concern.
So, as you hunt for the perfect pair, look for orthopedic shoes that provide the following:
- Strong arch support
- Natural cushioning
- A well-structured heel cup
- Slightly raised heel
- Removable insoles
#7 Try Over-the-Counter Anti-Inflammatory Medications
Looking for quick pain relief? Over-the-counter NSAIDs can provide both pain and inflammation relief for chronic plantar fasciitis. Meanwhile, topicals like creams or gels can be applied directly to the hot spots.
That said, it’s important to use these medicines responsibly. Therefore keep in mind the following advice:
- Check with your doctor before taking any medication
- Always follow the recommended dosage
- Take medication with food and water to avoid nausea
#8 Untuck Your Bed Sheets
Lastly, when you tuck in for the night, give your feet a break. Tightly tucked-in bed sheets that keep your feet pointed can place undue strain on your plantar fascia.
So, loosen up those sheets and let your feet relax to reduce the risk of plantar fasciitis.
Vionic—Helping You Find Relief from Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is a chronic foot condition that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Fortunately, for the vast majority of adults with plantar fasciitis, there are actionable steps you can take to fix this problem.
At Vionic, our mission is to provide the orthopedic footwear you need to go about your daily life without thinking about foot pain. Whether you need comfy walking shoes, dress shoes, or casual sneakers, our sneakers are designed by orthopedic experts with exclusive alignment technology to provide the stability, cushioning, arch support, and flexibility your foot needs.
Want to know how to avoid plantar fasciitis? Shop our sneaker collection today.
- Trojian, Thomas et al. “Plantar Fasciitis.” American Family Physician. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2019/0615/p744.html
- Latt, L Daniel et al. “Evaluation and Treatment of Chronic Plantar Fasciitis.” Foot & ankle orthopaedics vol. 5,1 2473011419896763. 13 Feb. 2020, doi:10.1177/2473011419896763
- Friedland, Jerome. “Plantar Fasciitis.” Orthomedctr. https://www.orthomedctr.com/plantar-fasciitis_1.php
- Trojian, Thomas, and Alicia K Tucker. “Plantar Fasciitis.” American family physician vol. 99,12 (2019): 744-750.