How To Deal, Heal, And Workout With Plantar Fasciitis

Fitness: Get Fit

By: // February 13, 2015

Plantar fasciitis got you down? Here's how to deal!

You step out of bed and your foot hurts. You don’t remember injuring yourself and since it feels better the more you walk around, you assume it’s a fluke. The next morning there it is again. “Strange,” you think. “I’m sure it will go away,” but it persists. Gradually it hurts more. But still, it feels better when you move around on it so it can’t be bad, right? Wrong. You have plantar fasciitis (“plan-tur-fash-ee-eye-tis”), a common foot injury and a fairly easy one to fix if you act early. Which I guess is the first tip: do not wait to treat this injury. The longer you wait, the worse it gets and the longer it will take to heal. So what is this strangely named problem and just what should you do about it?

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot connecting your heel to the base of your toes. It acts like a shock absorber supporting the arch in your foot. If tension on the fascia is overloaded, tiny tears are produced resulting in irritation, inflammation and pain. The pain might feel like a stabbing sensation in the heel or arch of the foot, or it might feel more like deep aching or throbbing.

Most people feel this pain when getting out of bed in the morning. The pain generally subsides as the foot gets warmed up and moving. This is because the fascia is contracted at night almost as if it tries to heal itself. When you step on it getting out of bed, a sudden strain occurs all over again.

Reasons and Risks

Many things can contribute to the onset of plantar fasciitis including a sudden and big increase in running mileage, working out, walking or standing on hard surfaces, poor foot structure (too flat or too arched), worn out or improperly fitting shoes, or even going barefoot and wearing flip-flops  But other things also contribute to this annoying problem including:

Plantar fasciitis can occur at any age, but is most common between 40-60.

Certain Exercises
Running, dance aerobics, ballet, or any exercise that put more pressure on the heel will contribute to the strain.

Lack of stretching
Chronically tight hamstrings, calves, low back, or Achilles tendons will pull the fascia tighter making for more tears.

Foot mechanics
Overpronation, or having your foot roll in, is the most common mechanical contributor but any type of odd gait or stride may also play a role.

Obesity or being overweight
The heavier you are, the more stress put on your plantar fascia.

Related: 5 Best Exercises To Beat Back Pain

Plantar Fasciitis Treatments

Whatever the cause, one thing is for sure: you want this thing fixed! It’s annoying and persistent. The good news is that, when treated early, most people resolve their pain with conservative treatments within six weeks. The complicated part is that no one treatment works for every person. Sometimes you have to try a few to figure out what works for you. However, there are tried and true things that need to be utilized whether trying to solve plantar fasciitis or better yet – trying to avoid it! Here they are:

Stretch, stretch, stretch: Your lower legs, calves, ankles and feet need to be stretched daily if not several times a day. Stand at a doorframe holding the edges, place your heel on the floor close to the frame and the ball of your foot up against the frame. Pulling gently with your hands, slightly bend your knee and press your foot into the doorframe while leaning forward. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat. Another great stretch is to sit down with your legs stretched out in front of you and a towel wrapped around your foot. Gently pull back on the towel and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat. Remember to stretch both feet, even if one is not injured. Prevention is easier than resolution!

Ice: Just like with other injuries, the inflammation of plantar fasciitis can be helped with ice. The best way to do this is to use a frozen water bottle and roll it back and forth under your foot for about 10 minutes, several times a day. Do it at meals, under your desk while you work or even at night when you watch TV. Be consistent.

Massage: No, you don’t have to pay for it. While you are sitting, roll a tennis ball around under your foot to massage the area. It work like a foam roller for your foot. Of course, the frozen water bottle also serves this purpose.

Medication: Over the counter anti-inflammatories can help. Ibuprofen or Naproxin are good bets.

Rest up: Your feet need time off from whatever is causing the issue. Stop or cut way back on whatever the offending exercise is. Read on because below is a list of alternative exercises that might just do the trick until you feel better.

A Woman Resting On The Couch From Plantar Fasciitis

For you busybodies out there, we know that taking a few rest days is tough. But with plantar fasciitis, staying off your feet can be your best friend!

Get new shoes: What a great prescription, huh? Most people wear their workout shoes for far too long before replacing. Remember that the plantar fascia muscle, which runs along the bottom of your foot, helps support the arch of your foot. So it makes sense that if you do not wear shoes with proper support you are putting extra wear and tear on that fascia. This leads to the muscle being strained and small tears can be created.

Shoe Inserts For Plantar Fasciitis

Cheap or improper shoes can be one of the causes of plantar fasciitis, but before you go buying brand new shoes, you may also consider shoe inserts.  Inserts last longer and can be moved from shoe to shoe as needed. At one time you had to spend hundreds of dollars at a foot doctor or physical therapist in order to get good, quality custom-made orthotics. Now there are literally hundreds of options for inserts online or at any number of footwear stores with a very wide price range. Just keep in mind that price can often—though not completely—reflect quality. Try to choose based on other reasons.

So how do you filter through all the choices and select the right pair for you? Here are some tips!

How To Find The Right Shoe Inserts For You

  1. Look for insoles that have been well-tested and recommended by other users. If you don’t know someone personally, read the reviews online. However, don’t use the recommendation of the company itself.
  2. Take time to know your own feet before you buy. Neutral? Pronator? Supinator? Get a diagnosis from a medical professional or a specialized running store that uses a treadmill to watch you and help you understand your gait. Once you know, make sure to choose inserts that are specific to YOUR feet.
  3. Look for inserts with deep heel cups. Generally those who experience plantar fasciitis need more support in the arches of the feet. A deeper heel cup will provide this. Do you have flat feet? Low Arches? Moderate arches? If you aren’t sure, Runner’s World provides you with the Wet Feet Test that you can do at home to determine the amount of arch support you will need.
  4. Give the inserts time to break in before a race or longer run. Just like a new pair of shoes, the inserts will change the foot movement and your feet will need time to adjust. Do it in small doses.

With so many options out there, let us help you get started. We have a few to recommend and, if they don’t meet your needs, most of them will have other great options linked on the same page. Here are our favorite picks! Click on the Amazon link below to be taken to the product.

Superfeet Black Premium Insoles

Custom designed for low-medium arch foot types they are considered one of the best on the market for flat feel. Other Superfeet Insoles fit different foot shapes. The Superfeet Blue, for more of a medium arch, is one of the best sellers out there.

Powerstep Protech Orthotic Supports

Plantar Fasciitis sufferers have chosen these for a long time reporting great results. These have a deep heel cup, dual layers for better shock absorption, and anti-microbial protection for freshness.

Powerstep Unisex Pinnacle Maxx Insole

If you are a severe pronator this is a great choice for you. The Powerstep has a slightly angled exterior heel platform to provide motion control. These are also anti-microbial.

Syono Orthotic Shoe Gel Insoles

Like shock absorbers for your car, these babies have a cushy gel material for gentle relief. One thing to consider: these come oversized for you to trim to fit your size rather than coming in a specific size set to your foot. This turns some people off.

Airplus Plantar Fasciitis Orthotic

Here is another choice with gel insert cushions. These also have the deep heel cup we recommend. Those who reviewed the Syono often noted they provide more stability than other more notable name brands they have tried.

Remember, these are a small handful from a giant bucket of options. Take a look around and get something that will give you happy feet!

Can I Work Out with Plantar Fasciitis?

The answer is yes! But you may have to adjust your workouts until the problem is resolved. And even then, make sure to resume your regular activities slowly. The key to staying fit while trying to resolve plantar fasciitis is to participate in things that will not contribute to heel strike or pounding of your feet.

Workouts To Try:

Women doing child's pose in a yoga class

Yoga is a great form of low-impact exercise for people dealing with plantar fasciitis.

Workouts To Avoid:

  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Bouncing
  • Step Aerobics
  • Walking for fitness
  • Going barefoot or wearing flip-flops (use shoes even in your home!)

Physical therapy, night splints, custom orthotics and even surgery can play a role in solving plantar fasciitis if the more conservative treatments are not helping you. For me personally, I had plantar fasciitis about 14 years ago after training for a marathon. What ended up helping me the most was sleeping in a boot, keeping my arch taped with first aid tape and wearing inserts in my running shoes. Be sure to see your doctor if the pain persists for more than three to four weeks with the conservative treatments. However, you may want to check out for some helpful tools.

Best of luck and remember that slowing down now will help you continue to move for many years to come!

READ THIS NEXT: 7 Workout Mistakes That Can Leave You In Pain

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Megan on April 17, 2017 at 7:13 AMReply

Had anyone tried PRP injections for it? Or other treatments besides Tenex? Are they painful?

Kristina on April 9, 2017 at 4:13 PMReply

Pure magnesium oil spray that you rub into the soles up to your knees can really help! The Ancient Minerals brand is the purest. Chronic Inflammation in the body can be a cause of this. The oil is great for any kind of tendon/muscle inflammation, insomnia & a bunch of other stuff. A lot of pro-athletes use this.

Kathy on February 26, 2017 at 11:39 PMReply

I just got orthotics last week for my PF and the pain is worse?!Has any one else experinced this?

Julie Howser on January 14, 2017 at 1:58 AMReply

Tried ALL of this, and then some. Still suffering going on three years. Feel hopeless. Even the doctors have given up on me...unless I take a nasty daily pain med indefinitely (no thanks), or opt for surgery!

    Sarah on April 3, 2017 at 7:55 AMReply

    Check into a procedure called a tenotomy (Tenex is the brand name). They make a small incision in the bottom of your foot and use ultrasound to break up the scar tissue. I had mine performed in an interventional radiology department. I wore a boot for 5-6 weeks and it 100% took care of the issue. It does take a few months to get back to 100%, but it's better than the stabbing feeling I felt with every step.

Ruben Nuevo draper on January 12, 2017 at 3:50 PMReply

I've had plantar fasciitis for almost over a year, I used to be active 6 days a week down to 0. I've been seeing physio for 6months through my football team, and still no luck! Still just as bad as it has ever been. I have an active building job where I'm constantly on my feet on uneven surfaces. My physio says the only way I could get rid of it is to stay out of work until it's gone which could take up to 8 weeks. I'm seriously considering the operation! Please help me and give me any more advice I haven't already heard and methods I haven't already used! I'm pulling my hair out not being active! I'm depressed. It is a genuine issue this PF and I will forever sympathise with anyone carrying this terrible annoying injury!

Barbara Lanz on January 4, 2017 at 10:01 PMReply

I have plantar fasciitis, my question is can it move up into the ankle area?

    Rosalie on March 23, 2017 at 5:48 PMReply

    Hi Barbra. I have plantar fasciitis and I'm getting shooting pains up my ankles. I'm heading back to my podiatrist on Wednesday so will let you know what he says.

    Chris Freytag on January 9, 2017 at 3:03 PMReply

    Hi Barbara - While plantar fasciitis technically would not be in your ankle, other areas can become affected either due to compensation or from tightness, etc. - so it all can be related but it wouldn't be the same thing.

LW on October 18, 2016 at 4:45 PMReply

I stopped going to yoga, started Barre and developed PF. I didn't make the connection but after 8 months of pain, I finally thought that it could be Barre. My first doctor said I had flat feet and to start wearing SuperFeet inserts, ice, meds. My pain worsened but I am also very active and have a large active dog that needs 3 walks a day. I finally went to a very reputable Podiatrist who said custom orthotics are the best treatment for PF. I am now waiting to get fitted and hope this will work.

Miguel Campaner on July 7, 2016 at 1:26 AMReply

Great tips! Especially the workouts to do and avoid. If you were to give a massage to someone with plantar fasciitis, should it always have a rolling action? Or should I just ask where the pain is? Thanks!

Barb on June 29, 2016 at 9:09 PMReply

Hi Chris! Thanks for all your info...I absolutely love your advice and blog! Barb Gillen

Bob on April 19, 2016 at 8:16 AMReply

FYI - you cannot cure plantar fasciitis. Once you have torn your plantar fascia you cannot untear it you can only strengthened the muscles around it to help protect it in the future.

    Eric Durak on June 2, 2016 at 1:14 PMReply

    Bob - I would respectfully disagree. Fascia is a connective tissue, like a tendon or ligament. It is avascular (no circulation), but like all other connective tissue, relies on peripheral blood flow to heal. I have been working with occupational workers with PF for many years, and recently published a paper in the J Ergon. (2016:6:150). With proper foot care, rehab, inserts, and best work practices, this chronic condition can be cured. A good percentage of our industrial workers now have pain levels at zero after using inserts and rehab over time. Like a sprain in the joint - this type of connective tissue can heal. My experience is - that most people don't take care of it like they would a sports injury.

    Jennifer h on May 19, 2016 at 10:01 PMReply

    My son is 9 with this problem. How did he get it? Was he born like this?

      Kathy on July 6, 2016 at 5:44 AMReply

      My 10-year old daughter has suffered on and off for 3 years. At first we couldn't believe that PF was actually what she had. We started with a better stretching routine (what 7 year old stretches before playing). We took her to a foot specialist and after some tests and X-rays they determined that she has an excessively large growth plate in her foot. At age 10 she already wears a women's 8 1/2 shoe, so her PF is constantly being stressed. While still growing the growth plate has the texture of a pumice stone and continually aggravates her PF and Achilles tendon. The prescribed rest, ice, Advil and an orthodic lift (so the tendon stretches less). Although she did get better we see a flair up every time she has a growth spurt.

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