Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most frequently reported and disabling disorders of the foot and the most common cause of pain in the bottom of the heel. It is an inflammatory condition of the plantar fascia, a ligament that runs beneath the skin on the bottom of the foot and connects the heel to the toes. The plantar fascia is responsible for supporting the arch of the foot and is therefore frequently subjected to intense stress that can cause small ruptures, inflammation and pain.
There are several simple measures you can take to prevent the development of Plantar Fasciitis. But to better understand why those actions are important and effective, let’s first review the main causes of Plantar Fasciitis.
What causes Plantar Fasciitis?
The main cause of Plantar Fasciitis is overuse. One of the main functions of the plantar fascia is to absorb the load and strain to which our feet are subjected. But sometimes, the stress to our feet is too much for the plantar fascia to handle. When too much pressure is placed on the plantar fascia, it can be damaging and cause small tears in the ligament tissue. Your body will naturally respond to this injury by trying to repair it. As part of the healing process, inflammation will develop, which will result in heel pain.
Any physical activity or context that is particularly demanding to the feet can potentially trigger Plantar Fasciitis. This is most common in exercises involving running or jumping, particularly long-distance running, or when there are sudden increases in exercise intensity. Physical activities that require walking, standing, or being barefoot for extended periods of time can also be problematic. Being overweight or having sudden weight gain also puts extra pressure on your feet and is therefore a major risk factor.
There are a number of biomechanical factors that predispose you to developing Plantar Fasciitis because they increase the load the plantar fascia has to withstand. These include overpronation (excessive rolling of the foot inward toward the arch), high arched feet, and tight muscles and tendons in the feet and legs, particularly the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles.
The shoes you wear are another major cause of Plantar Fasciitis. Shoes that fit poorly or with inappropriate arch support or cushioning can greatly increase the stress to which your feet are exposed.
Plantar Fasciitis prevention
Anything that decreases the support to the plantar fascia can potentially increase the likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis. Therefore, the best prevention is to do the opposite—increase the support and strength of the plantar fascia.
Wear appropriate shoes
First and foremost, wear good shoes and do not walk barefoot. Bad shoes and barefoot walking can put an excessive strain on the plantar fascia. Wearing shoes that protect your arch and heel is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to prevent Plantar Fasciitis.
Invest some time in finding the right shoes for your feet. Good shoes are those that are comfortable, stable, the right size, have a thick sole, and have good cushioning and arch support.
If you spend a lot of time on your feet, rocker shoes may be a good option. Rocker shoes get their name from the fact that they “rock” your feet during gait. These therapeutic shoes have a thicker sole and rounded heel, which allows them to relieve pressure from the plantar region of the foot. There are different types of rocker shoes that can meet your specific needs.
If you can’t find the ideal shoes for your feet, you can upgrade your footwear with over-the-counter inserts or custom-made orthotics. Orthotics are orthopedic devices (heel pads, cups) made to fit inside shoes. They add support to the arch and heel and can make up for the inadequacy of your shoes and for any biomechanical problems your foot may have. Custom-made foot orthotics have the advantage of being specifically designed for your foot.
Work out sensibly
When you work out, it is fundamental that you take the adequate measures to minimize stress to your feet.
Supportive footwear should be a given. Find supportive shoes that are suited for your type of exercise. If necessary, you can also use custom orthotics or over-the-counter inserts to protect your feet while exercising.
It is also very important that you to warm up properly before starting the main exercise. Also, when you take up new sports or physical activities, or when you increase the intensity of your habitual exercise routines, be sure to do so slowly and gradually.
Importantly, stretch. Stretching increases the flexibility of muscles, tendons and ligaments and is a great help in preventing use-related injuries. Stretches focused on the feet and lower legs will help you strengthen your lower body and will add support to the plantar fascia. Warming up and stretching before exercising will relieve the tightness in your muscles and protect them from injury. Exercising with cold muscles and tendons is a fast track to injury.
Maintain a healthy weight
Extra weight is extra load on your feet. Try to eat healthy. Food with anti-inflammatory nutrients can also be helpful in boosting your body’s ability to avoid and repair any small injuries to your plantar fascia.
But sometimes you just can’t avoid gaining weight. If you get pregnant, for example, remember that you will have an increased risk of developing Plantar Fasciitis, particularly during the last months of pregnancy. If you gain weight, reinforce your protection from injury with supportive shoes and thoughtful exercise.