Have you been experiencing a jolting pain in your heel? Is it the kind of pain that is worse in the morning but subsides as you move about?
You are not alone.
Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, Amol Saxena, reveals that “Over 50 per cent of Americans will experience heel pain during their lifetime.”
He cites plantar fasciitis or “heel spur syndrome” as the most common cause.
As annoying as it is, it can be relieved by doing some simple and effective foot exercises for Plantar Fasciitis. There are also steps you can take to prevent future flare ups of the condition.
As suggested by its last four letters, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation. Specifically, it is inflammation of the plantar fasciaa - a tough band of connective tissue running from your heel, along your sole and branching out to attach to the base of each of your toes.
The inflammation (and associated pain) occurs when the plantar fascia is damaged. If left untreated, the condition could become chronic or lead to an extremely painful rupture in the plantar fascia.
Women are more at risk than men for developing plantar fasciitis. Other persons at risk include those who are overweight or who have experienced weight gain, as in pregnancy.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons lists the following as other risk factors of the condition:
According to the Mayo Clinic, you are also at an increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis if you wear shoes with inadequate support or where your job requires that you stand or walk on hard surfaces for long periods of time.
1. The Belt Stretch
Equipment: a wide sturdy belt.
Sit on the ground and grab one end of the belt in each hand. Place the ball of one foot in the center of the belt. Keep the knee straight as you use the belt and the muscle at the front of the leg to pull your ankle back towards you.
Hold the stretch for 10 seconds then relax.
Repeat for up to 10 minutes then move on to the other foot, if needed.
2. The Heel Stretch
Equipment: a table or countertop
Spread your feet apart with one slightly in front of the other. Grab the corners of the table and lean forward. Bend your knees and squat down, keeping your feet flat on the ground for as long as possible.
Hold the stretch for 10 seconds - your fascia will stretch as your heel rises from the floor. Relax, stand straight up and repeat the exercise up to 20 times. Switch legs and repeat, if necessary.
3. The Calf Stretch
Equipment: a wall
Stand facing the wall, step one leg out in front of the other and place both palms against the wall.Keep both feet flat on the ground, your back leg straight (this is the leg to be worked). Bend the knee of the front leg as you lean forward into the wall.
Hold the stretch for 10 seconds – your fascia will stretch as you lean forward. Relax, stand straight up and repeat the exercise up to 20 times. If you are experiencing the discomfort of plantar fasciitis in only one leg, then ensure it is the one at the back.
4. The Calf Stretch – 2
Equipment: a wall
Stand facing the wall with one foot out in front of the other. Place both palms on the wall and bend both knees. Shift your weight onto your toes but ensure you keep your heels flat on the ground.
Hold the position for 10-30 seconds. Relax, stand straight up and repeat up to 20 times. Repeat with the other leg behind, if needed.
5. The Step Stretch
Equipment: a step
Stand at the edge of the step with your heels hanging off. Lower your heels to below the line of the step and then raise them back up again.
Relax and repeat, doing 3 sets of 10.
6. The Toe Curl
Equipment: a small towel
Place the towel on the ground and put one foot on top of it. Use your toes to scrunch the towel toward you then slowly smooth it away from you.
Relax and repeat for 3 sets of 10. Switch to using the other foot, if necessary.
7. The Marble Pickup
Equipment: marbles and a small container
Place the marbles and container on the floor. Use your toes to pick up each marble and placeit in the container. Repeat multiple times with one foot then use the other foot if it is also affected.
8. The Toe Stretch
Sit on a chair and extend your leg, keeping your heel on the floor. Reach down, grab your big toe then pull it up and back towards the ankle and away from the floor. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds.
Relax and repeat up to 4 times. Reposition to stretching the other foot, if needed.
Here’s a great video demonstrating six other ways to exercise your foot for plantar fasciitis relief. As the instructor explains, it is best to do these exercises before getting out of bed so that you do not stress the plantar fascia by applying weight to it.
Apart from exercise, there are several other ways you can keep plantar fasciitis at bay. WebMd Consider doing these:
- reduce your weight or maintain a healthy weight. The less weight your plantar fascia has to bear, the less likely it is to become damaged
- wear supportive, comfortable shoes with low to moderate heels
- avoid going barefoot on hard surfaces
- replace your worn out shoes as newer ones will give better support and shock absorbency
- switch to low-impact sports and exercise such as swimming and cycling
- apply ice to the area or give your foot a regular ice massage
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