One great thing about having a blog is the ability to write about issues that affect me. I can research and learn and then share the knowledge I gain. I can also get feedback and advice from others. It’s awesome! Today I am most definitely talking about an issue that is very much affecting my life at present. Maybe it’s affecting you too, or has in the past, or possibly you are at risk. Either way, I hope what I write here will be of help to someone.
If Plantar Fasciitis (PF) was a recipe, then I had all the ingredients required to make a good PF: I’m middle-aged, I’m overweight, and I had a sudden increase in activity (trying to do the right thing to address the being overweight thing!). Mix all that together and voila – I cooked myself up a very painful case of PF. Aren’t I clever?!
In saying that though – you don’t have to be middle-aged to get PF. You can be a healthy, active and young person, so you might like to read on!
My PF is quite severe in my left foot and mild-moderate in my right foot. It has really stopped me in my tracks, made me feel old, and caused me a lot of pain! It has meant I’ve had to stop my daily walks which is not good for me or for little Miss Ava (my younger CKCS dog and walking partner).
Before I get into my symptoms and treatment, let me explain what Plantar Fasciitis is, what the causes and risk factors are, and ways in which you could prevent yourself from getting it!
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
The plantar fascias are the ligaments that run along the sole of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the metatarsals (bones just behind the toes.)
Its job is to support the arch of your foot, and to put some “spring in your step.” But, unfortunately it’s the sight of an all-too-common inflammation that causes intense pain in the heel and across the bottom of the foot. This inflammation and pain is known as plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is common in middle-aged people. It also occurs in younger people who are on their feet a lot – like athletes, soldiers, factory workers, nurses or teachers. It can happen in one foot or both feet.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by straining the ligament that supports your arch. Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament. These can lead to pain and swelling.
Did you know that as we age we lose some fat and padding (our natural cushioning) in the soles of our feet and thus are more prone to conditions such as PF? This loss of fat, which provided us with natural cushioning, means that our foot can lengthen/lurch forward somewhat. This in turn stretches the plantar fascia, which leads to strain, tears and inflammation in the ligament and ultimately PF! This is one of the reasons why this condition is common in the middle-aged.
What are the causes and risk factors to getting PF?
I’ve already mentioned some risk factors above but will repeat and list in dot point form.
- Being middle-aged, and seniors are also at risk due to the ligament and bone issues common to those of older years
- Being overweight
- Wearing poor quality footwear
- Overuse or strain by athletes, particularly runners but also walkers, joggers, basketball players, and tennis players. Basically any sport that requires quick or repetitive movements combined with impact on the heel and arch of the foot can lead to plantar fasciitis.
- Being in a job that requires long periods of standing or walking
How can I prevent myself from getting PF?
If you’ve looked at the list of risk factors above and recognised yourself there somewhere, here are some steps to help prevent the onset of PF:
- Take care of your feet! Wear shoes with good arch support and heel cushioning. If your work requires you to stand on hard surfaces, stand on a thick rubber mat to reduce stress on your feet.
- Do exercises to stretch the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel. This is especially important before sports, but it is helpful for nonathletes as well. Ask your doctor about recommendations for a stretching routine.
- Try and stay at a healthy weight for your height.
- Establish good exercise habits. Increase your exercise levels gradually, and wear supportive shoes.
- If you run, alternate running with other sports that will not cause heel pain.
- Put on supportive shoes as soon as you get out of bed. Going barefoot or wearing slippers puts stress on your feet.
I certainly did NOT do a lot of those listed above. All my life I have been most comfortable barefooted, only putting shoes on when leaving the house!
What are the symptoms of PF? What does PF feel like?
- Intense heel pain, especially first thing in the morning and after a long day.
- Difficulty walking or standing for long periods without pain
- Generally, the sharp pain associated with plantar fasciitis is localized to the heel, but it can spread forward along the plantar fascia and back into the Achilles tendon.
I feel a lot of pain in the arch of my left foot in and in my right foot I feel some pain in the ball of my foot and in my toes! My heels are in pain mostly first thing in the morning when I get out of bed. There have been a couple of nights where my feet have throbbed in pain and felt like they were on fire. It kept me awake and therefore required me to take painkillers. These occasions were both after I went on long afternoon beach walks (when away at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast). Though I mostly tried to stick to walking on the hard sand up near the water (much less painful for my PF), I had no choice but to also walk through quite a lot of soft sand to get on and off the beach. Ouchy!
While severe cases can result in chronic pain that lasts all day, the most common flare ups occur the first thing in the morning, making those first steps out of bed a form of torture (not to mention making you feel like you are 150 years of age!), and in the evening after having spent a day on your feet.
How do you treat Plantar Fasciitis?
Google is full of ways to treat PF (and you can go there also to see what it says) but I’ll just tell you what my Podiatrist told me to do.
First up though – I did nothing for ages, except to avoid walking barefoot by wearing thongs (flip flops to those of you in other parts of the world!) around the house and my normal shoes for when I go out, and my PF only got worse! So trust me, ignoring PF and hoping it will go away does not work. You need to get an action plan in place!
A couple of weeks ago, I bought myself a pair of Birkenstocks (AU$119.95 at Footgear) and due to the awesome arch support the pain in my feet started to improve immediately!
I had to wait awhile but I have finally been to see a Podiatrist. He strapped my feet up and it feels awesome – such great support which alleviates that vulnerable feeling.
Excuse the feet shots (I think feet are unattractive things!) but they kinda go hand in hand with Plantar Fasciitis! 😉
I’m to keep that strapping on for three (3) days. Meanwhile, here is the rest of our action plan:
- Get myself a pair of FS6 Compression Foot Sleeve (like a toe-less sock)
- Get an inner sole (with good arch support) for my ASICS joggers. A visit to The Athlete’s Foot coming up.
- He did mention getting myself a pair of Ortho Heel Sandals for around home (keeping my Birkenstocks for going out). I’ll check them out when I’m at The Athlete’s Foot but not sure that I want to outlay the money ($90++) as the Birk’s could probably do me for home and when I’m out.
- First thing in the morning before I get out of bed I need to do hold a towel across both my feet and pull towards me, stretching the plantar fascia, archilles tendon and my calf muscles, preparing them for the fact I’m about to get up and walk (so hopefully I won’t hobble to the loo like an old lady pretty please!)
- I need to do wall stretches (a variety of stretches my Podiatrist showed me to stretch my calf muscles at various points – low to stretch the archilles tendon and higher through the calf muscle and back of the knee) – morning and evening. These are difficult to explain without diagrams but if you consult Mr Google you are sure to come up with heaps!
- Ice my feet – 1 to 2 times daily. Grab a bag of frozen peas (I’ll probably use ice packs we have), wrap a tea towel around it and put my foot on it for up to 15 minutes.
- Massage – ohhhh I do like a massage! The Podiatrist told me my husband MUST massage my feet in a particular way (shown to me) every evening. He did mention that if said husband would not do it, I could roll my feet over a golf ball but lets pretend we didn’t hear that bit. My husband MUST massage my feet every evening because the Podiatrist said so! 😉
- Go back to the Podiatrist in one month for a review.
The best thing of all is that the Podiatrist did say that though the healing process can sometimes be lengthy, it WILL eventually go away! Yay! He also said that once I have got my FS6 Compression Foot Sleeve and an inner sole with good arch support for my joggers (good pair of ASICS fitted and purchased at The Athletes Foot) – I can resume my walks – though he says to start with a walk every second day rather than every day!
Have you had Plantar Fasciitis? How long were you in pain? Was your treatment plan similar to mine? Any further advice to add for fellow PF sufferer’s?
I’ll post again on PF to let you know of my progress. I’ll let you know what treatments I think have helped and those that I don’t think have helped and anything new that I am finding is helping me.
Ciao for now,
NOTE: Apart from the two images of my own feet, the other images used in this post are not my own and have been hyperlinked to their source.
[This post is linked up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT]