Healing from Plantar Fasciitis

If it has “itis” in its name, you know that can only mean one thing: inflammation! Inflammation is the body’s way of saying, “Hey, I’m hurt! But I’m not going to take it lying down. I’m going to fight it!” Yes, the body is a fighter and it will summon all the resources it has to heal itself.
 
Isn’t that an amazing thought? That the body was designed by our Creator to be able to heal itself? I respect doctors and visit them regularly. But I’ve noticed over time that my body heals best when I give it what it needs to heal itself. All of my well-meaning, highly trained doctors who prescribed drug after drug for my Multiple Sclerosis (MS) not only couldn’t heal me, but actually made me sicker. It was only once I started eating according to God’s plan that my body was able to heal itself on its own. When my 3-year old daughter broke her arm last summer, we raced to the emergency room and had 2-week follow up visits with the doctor for months. But in reality, all the doctors did was take x-rays and say she was fine and healing well. She didn’t have a cast (the break was too near her shoulder to cast it), but just wore a sling for a few weeks. We visited the doctor a total of 10 times, but it wasn’t their x-rays or palpitations that healed her. It was her body healing itself. It was the healing systems God put in place in her body that made her well.
 
So, inflammation is bad right? We hear about inflammation and how to combat it all the time. It’s actually gotten to be a popular buzz word. And yes, we want to avoid inflammation, especially systemic inflammation, but keep in mind that inflammation is the body’s way of healing itself. The redness, swelling, and warmth radiating from the site of an acute injury is there to help the body heal.
 
On the other hand, systemic inflammation is chronic, low-grade, widespread inflammation that is not particularly healthy. In fact, it is related to all the big bad diseases like obesity, heart disease, depression, and autoimmune disease. The body’s inflammatory system wasn’t designed to be on all the time, and when it is, big problems can arise. (For more info on inflammation that is very readable and very actionable, click here.)
 
So what does this have to do with Plantar Fasciitis?
 
According to Wikipedia:

Plantar Fasciitis is a painful inflammatory process of the plantar fascia, the connective tissue on the sole (bottom surface) of the foot. It is often caused by overuse of the plantar fascia or arch tendon of the foot. It is a very common condition and can be difficult to treat if not looked after properly. Another common term for the affliction is “policeman’s heel.”

The plantar fascia are what connect your heel bone to your toes, and they support the arch of your foot. Plantar Fasciitis could be considered acute inflammation, because it is caused by tearing of the plantar fascia. However, in my experience, plantar fasciitis is common among people who have systemic inflammation, thus blurring the line between acute and systemic inflammation. If you have systemic inflammation (which can be caused by a diet high in sugar and processed foods, too much or too little exercise, or chronic stress), you seem to be more likely to develop plantar fasciitis.
 
Last fall (Fall of 2011), I developed a case of plantar fasciitis. It developed during a time when I know I had systemic inflammation caused by my adrenal fatigue (brought on by a combination of eating too low carb and exercising too much, and too much stress) and by consuming too much sugar (I had reached for sweets as a means of dealing with the stress of my daughter’s broken arm, two antsy kids cooped up in the house during an summer Texas heatwave, and my father’s death). It was a bad situation. My body literally fell apart during that time.
 
I’ve since recovered from it all, including the plantar fasciitis, and I wanted to share what I learned about how to heal from it.
 
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
As we said, plantar fasciitis occurs when the ligaments (plantar fascia) that connect the heel and the toes and support the arch of the foot become strained, resulting in many tiny tears in the plantar fascia.
 
What Are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciits?
The hallmark sign of plantar fasciitis is heel pain first thing in the morning when you get out of bed. It can be very painful and can make walking very difficult. Usually the pain fades within 5-20 minutes as the plantar fascia get warmed up and stretched out from walking and activity. The pain can even dissipate after taking only a few steps. The pain can get worse throughout the day, or it can subside until the next morning. Standing and walking a lot, especially in shoes with poor support, can make the pain worse.
 
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis is caused by straining and tearing the ligaments that support your arch. According to Web MD, you are more likely to strain and tear your plantar fascia if:
 

  • Your feet roll inward too much when you walk (excessive pronation)
  • You have high arches or flat feet
  • You walk, stand or run for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces
  • You are overweight
  • You wear shoes that don’t fit well or are worn out
  • You have tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles

 
In retrospect, I can see I had a high risk of developing plantar fasciitis because I have excessive pronation from having a very high arch, I am constantly on my feet on concrete or ceramic tile, and I was wearing really crummy new shoes at the time the plantar fasciitis hit.
 
What Are Home Remedies for Plantar Fasciitis?
Of course, you can go see a doctor about the problem, but as you know, I’m a believer in letting God’s design do the healing. I’d rather do things naturally than try medical interventions that sometimes do more harm than good. So, here are some things you can try at home to heal your plantar fasciitis. They worked for me. It took about 3 or 4 months, but I did finally heal and stop living with chronic heel pain (my case seemed to be pretty bad…not only did I have excruciating pain first thing in the morning so that I could only hobble into the kitchen to get some breakfast, but the pain continued all day).
 

  1.  Rest your feet. This one is hard! I’m a doer and a goer. Action is my middle name, and I barely sit down during the day. What’s more, I LIKE being active, and being told to sit and rest is painful in and of itself. But your plantar fascia need rest in order to heal, and so you must try to rest your feet as much as possible. Forgo long walks, sit more, less sports and physical activity. I had to consciously do less gardening, walking, and biking, and tried to be efficient in the steps I did take during the day at home on my terrifically hard ceramic tile floors.

 

  1. Get some decent shoes. This is really key and I think it may have been the most important facet of my own recovery. Like I said, when the plantar fasciitis came on, I had just bought a new pair of sneakers for daily use. I bought the same brand of Champion running shoes from Target that I always wore during the day as I play with my kids and do housework. They’d always been fine. Maybe Champion lowered their manufacturing standards, or maybe the particular style I bought was different from the others, but within days of wearing them, the pain began. I could tell from the start that they had less arch support, less padding, and less pronation support than the shoes I had before. But we were already in the car on our way to Illinois for Christmas, and it wasn’t an ideal time to go shoe shopping. So I continued to wear those crummy shoes for two or three weeks until I had a chance to get new ones. Won’t make that mistake again! I have found (and other bloggers I have read agree) that the best shoes for plantar fasciitis are those that offer a relatively inflexible sole (you shouldn’t be able to bend the shoe in half very easily), a firm high arch, and support to prevent excessive pronation. Some shoes are labeled as being good for arch support and pronation. I found (and others concur) that New Balance shoes are the best for this. My New Balance shoes cost me about $80 (far more than the $20 I spent on my Target Champions!), and they offer some that are much more that may be better than the ones I have. I strongly suggest you go out and buy the best pair of New Balance shoes you can find…and seek out the ones that say they offer support for the arch and pronation. Before you buy shoes, get some orthotics and take them to the store with you so you can try on your new shoes with the orthotics inside.

 

  1. Get some high quality orthotic arch supports. Orthotics? How geeky can you get? Yeah, I know, it’s terribly uncool to admit you wear orthotics, but they will help you heal from plantar fasciitis (and help prevent another occurrence) much faster than shoes alone. Even with the support of the excellent New Balance shoes I bought, I still needed the extra support orthotics can offer. I have two pairs. I bought Spenco Adults’ 3/4-inch Orthotic Supports at my local sporting goods store. They have a hard plastic bottom with a cushioned top and a very high arch, and they cost about $23. I like these a lot and keep them in my outdoor shoes. My favorites though, are the ones I have in my indoor shoes (yes, I have a pair of sneakers to wear only in the house – I simply cannot walk on these hard ceramic tile floors all day barefoot without serious pain, and I don’t want to track all kinds of dirt and pollens in the house from wearing the same shoes indoors and out). These orthotics are called Powerstep Pinnacle Maxx, and I bought them online at Amazon.com for about $23. The offer a stabilizing heel cup and platform, firm support for the arch, and a foam cushion that softens impact. Important tip: Buy your orthotics first, and take them with you to the shoe store so you can try on shoes with the orthotics inserted. The orthotics take up extra space in the shoes, and so you might need a slightly different size. I normally wear a 7 ½ or 8 regular, but after experimenting with different sizes and widths, I ended up buying an 8 ½ regular, although an 8 wide also fit pretty well.

 

  1. Stretch and massage your plantar fascia. It is very helpful to spend an extra few minutes in bed stretching out your plantar fascia before you put your feet on the ground. As you sleep, your plantar fascia contract and tighten, and when your feet suddenly hit the ground, the fascia experience sudden stretching. That can lead to the small tears in the fascia that are the hallmark of plantar fasciitis, and you can continue to create more tears if you fail to stretch the fasica before trying to walk in the morning. Some people get a brace (either from the drugstore or from their doctor) that is specifically designed to keep the plantar fascia stretched out during the night. The brace essentially keeps your foot at a 90-degree angle to your leg, keeping the fascia stretched, rather than contracted. Less comfortable sleeping, to be sure, but can be really helpful, or so I’m told. I did not try this myself. At any rate, brace or not, before you get out of bed in the morning, stretch your foot gently and slowly until you feel like it is loosened up. You can also massage your plantar fascia with your hand, fingers, a firm rubbery ball, a golf ball, or a wooden massager. Dig into the plantar fascia really good. You can even dig your elbow into the fascia. This may hurt a bit, but it helps stretch out those ligaments. You must do these stretches first thing in the morning, and it can be helpful to do them throughout the day and at night before be. It is also good to stretch the calf and Achilles tendon by leaning your hands against a wall and stretching out one leg behind you to gently stretch the calf and tendons. Do these stretches throughout the day to keep your calf loose. These stretches will help heal the tears in your plantar fascia, as well as help prevent new tears. It’s worth 10 minutes of your time to check out an informative (although goofy) video of stretches for plantar fasciitis by K-Starr, a well-respected mobility guy.

 

  1. Ice it. K-Starr recommends dunking your foot in ice water. I can’t recommend that, nor did I do it. That’s really painful and could even be harmful. Instead, opt for some gentle icing 3-5 times a day. The best method I found was to freeze water in a disposable water bottle. I rolled my foot over it a bunch of times, and wrapped it in a thin cloth and bound it to my foot for 5 minutes or so. Each icing session should only last about 5-10 minutes. Again, try to do it 3-5 times a day until the inflammation starts to calm down.

 
Plantar Fasciitis is extremely common, and I’ve heard from a number of Fit4God folks that they had it. The best solution is prevention: eat the Fit4God diet, which avoids grains, sugar, and industrial fats, and is naturally anti-inflammatory. If you need even more help reducing inflammation beyond what the basic Fit4God diet offers, take a look at this. Make sure you are wearing good shoes if you tend to walk or stand on hard surfaces a lot, or if you tend to have high arches, flat feet, or excessive pronation. Losing weight also helps. And if you still find yourself with heel pain that manifests first thing in the morning, be sure to start the steps here as soon as possible: Rest, buy good shoes, get some orthotics, stretch and massage, and ice. They say plantar fasciitis can heal in 3-6 months; mine healed in about 4. Good luck, and let us know in the comments if you try any of these methods and how they worked for you. Also let us know if there are any methods you tried that we didn’t cover!
 
Be healthy, be strong, be Fit4God when He calls!

 

 

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Comments

  1. Great information, thanks for sharing. I like that you’ve listed several options for treatment. All the best,

    Dr. Michael Horowitz
    Vancouver Orthotics