If you have developed pain in the bottom of your heel that is worst in the morning, then there is a very good chance that you have plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a very common and very frustrating condition. It can stop you from doing the activities you love, and generally makes life a bit miserable. But how can you treat plantar fasciitis at home?
For a start you may need to reduce your normal activities or avoid any particular activity that irritates your pain. As an example, a runner that normally runs 40 miles per week over 5 runs, could try reducing their mileage and cutting to 2 or 3 runs per week. If this wasn’t tolerable, then they may need to drop their mileage further or find an alternative way to exercise for a while. Just because you can’t run it doesn’t mean that you can’t swim, cycle or lift weights. Find an activity that you enjoy to replace the activity that irritates your symptoms.
Stretching has been shown to be effective in helping to reduce the pain associated with plantar fasciitis. In the video below we show you what stretches we generally advise. Stretching your plantar fascia in the morning before you get out of bed is a very good way of reducing that horrible 1st step pain. We normally recommend holding the stretch for 30 seconds and repeating 3 times. Stretching your calf muscles out twice a day can also be helpful.
As well as stretching, we often advise some strengthening exercises. This has again been shown to be helpful in reducing your pain but also helps to avoid becoming deconditioned if you aren’t able to do your normal activities. If you can tolerate it, try strengthening your calf muscles with calf raises 2-3 times per week. With a resistance band you can also work on strengthening the muscles that stabilise your ankle. Have a look at the video below for more information on how to perform some of these exercises.
If you are overweight, losing some weight will help your pain. Being overweight puts much more strain on the plantar fascia and is thought to one of the leading causes of plantar fasciitis.
Many people find benefit from wearing shop bought gel heel cups or supportive insoles. These can help to take the load away from the painful part of the heel. They are often quite cheap and a good place to start if you develop heel pain. However, they are not a replacement for a properly prescribed pair of foot orthoses from your Podiatrist.
While the jury is out as to whether plantar fasciitis is an inflammatory problem or not, our patients often find that using ice packs helps to manage their pain. Try applying an ice pack for 10-15 minutes at the end of the day if your heel is painful. If your pain is very severe you could also try taking some painkillers.
Footwear is a very important part of making your heel feel better. We would normally recommend a shoe that supports the foot but that offers some cushion as well. Many patients also find a shoe with a small heel also helps to reduce their pain. A running shoe is ideal. If you normally walk around the house in thin slippers or bare feet, we strongly advise that you stop. Try wearing a cushioned, supportive shoe in the house instead.