With the warmer weather finally here we can look forward to a summer of BBQ’s and beach cricket. The one thing that’s sure to spoil your fun is the dreaded “pain in the heel!” If you’re walking barefoot, in flat thongs or those favourite 5 year old runners, heel pain is bound to appear at some stage this summer. Here’s a few hints to keep you on your feet and healthy over the warmer months.
What is heel pain?
At the bottom of your foot there’s a thick band of connective tissue called the plantar fascia. It connects your heel bone to the front of your foot.
If the plantar fascia becomes irritated and painful due to overuse and unsupportive foot wear such as thongs, it’s termed as plantar fasciitis.
You don’t have to be active to get it. Plantar fasciitis can affect anyone. People who are overweight, pregnant, people whose jobs involve a lot of standing, sports participants and people who wear up supportive or worn-out shoes are all susceptible to plantar fasciitis.
What Are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
The most obvious symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp pain on the bottom of the foot, near the heel. Here are some signs that this pain maybe plantar fasciitis:
- The pain is strongest first thing in the morning but gets better after a few minutes of walking around.
- The pain is worse after extended periods of standing or after getting up from sitting.
- The pain develops gradually and becomes worse over time.
- The pain is worse after exercise or activity than it is during activity.
- It hurts when stretching the foot.
- It hurts when pressing on the sides of the heel or arch of the foot.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
The plantar fascia supports your foot and gets used every time you take a step, so it has to absorb a lot of stress and weight. If too much pressure is put on the plantar fascia, the fibers can get damaged or start to tear. The body responds by causing inflammation in the affected area. This causes the pain and stiffness of plantar fasciitis.
Things that can increase the risk of plantar fasciitis include:
- Thongs or poorly fitting shoes: Thongs and shoes that do not provide good support increase your risk of plantar fasciitis. Throw out any shoes that have thin soles or inadequate arch support.
- Activities that put a lot of stress on the feet: This includes things like walking barefoot, running, hiking, dancing, and beach cricket – all of your favourite summer activities
- Tight calf muscles: Tight calves make it harder to flex your foot, and this puts more stress on the plantar fascia.
- Weight. Carrying a few extra kilo’s puts added pressure on your feet every time you take a step.
- Jobs that involve a lot of standing or walking on hard surfaces. Jobs that keep you on your feet all day, like waiting tables, factory work, working in a store, can cause damage to your plantar fascia.
- High arches, flat feet, or other foot problems. The shape of your foot can affect the way your weight is distributed on your feet when you stand therefore putting stress on the plantar fascia
How Can You Prevent Plantar Fasciitis?
A little bit of prevention can go a long way toward keeping your free from plantar fasciitis. Here are some tips to follow:
- Wear supportive shoes that fit you properly. Only wear thongs with built in arch support. Your podiatrist can guide you as to the best brands. When your shoes start to show wear it’s time to get a new pair. Runners should stop using their old shoes after about 750km of use.
- Stay in good shape. By keeping your weight in check, you’ll reduce the amount of stress on your feet.
- Stretch your calves and feet before you exercise or play a sport. Ask your podiatrist or sports medicine specialist to show you some stretches.
Talk to your Podiatrist about orthotics to put in your shoes. Foot supports help cushion your feet and distribute your weight more evenly. This is especially true for people with high arches or flat feet. Your Podiatrist will be able to tell you if orthotic supports might lower your chances of heel injury.
How Should You Treat Plantar Fasciitis?
Visit your Podiatrist to get advice on some easy treatment you can do at home to make things more comfortable.
- Use ice or massage a frozen water bottle under your arch to reduce pain and inflammation. Do this three or four times a day for about 15 minutes at a time until the pain goes away.
- Rest. Try to avoid activities that put stress on your feet and increase the pain
- Anti-inflammatory medications. Anti-inflammatory medications may help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Check with your doctor and podiatrist first to see if these are safe for you to take
- Exercise your feet and calves. When the pain is gone, do calf and foot stretches and leg exercises to make your legs as strong and flexible as possible.
- Talk to your podiatrist about orthotic shoe inserts. Orthotics can give your feet added support to aid in the healing process.
- Have sports injury professional show you how to tape your foot. A proper taping job allows your plantar fascia to get more rest. You should tape your foot each time you exercise until the pain is completely gone.
For people who get repeated sports injuries, it can help to see a Sports Podiatrist. These experts are trained to evaluate running style running style, jumping stance, or other key moves. They can teach you how to make the most of your body’s strengths and compensate for any weaknesses and strengthen your body to optimize your participation in all those summer activities you enjoy.
Podiatrist Ben Holland consults at Physioworks Cranbourne. Physioworks recommend and sell Vasyli Orthotic Thongs. Call reception for an appointment or more information on 5995 1111