There’s a lot of information out there about plantar fasciitis, but I have never seen a list like this. Before I start, a bit about me: I am an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, high school track and cross country coach. In a nutshell, know a ton about running and running injuries. I also have chronic plantar fasciitis. By chronic, I mean: I may have it pretty much under control, and often times don’t feel anything at all, but it’s always there, just waiting to strike if I do the wrong thing or don’t maintain my routine.I have been through the typical methods prescribed by conventional doctors (cortisone shots, heel stretch socks, boot, etc.), with no relief. I believe I am not alone in this. I ultimately learned a lot over the years about this condition and believe I have a pretty good plan of action that may help you. Here are my suggestions:
Release the Calf Muscles
Overall, I think tight calf muscles are a major culprit in plantar fasciitis. This is because tight calves tug on the heel bone causing tightness on the plantar fascia. You can work on the bottom of the foot all you want, but if the calves are the cause, you’re wasting your time. Yes, I recommend calf stretching, but first, I recommend finding a good massage therapist who can dig in there and release tight muscles and trigger points so your stretching can actually maintain the flexibility through a flexibility routine.
Fascia Release in the Foot
The calf muscle work I described made a huge difference, but I never felt truly fixed. I eventually learned about a local chiropractor who promised relief in three visits. I went to see him and took him up on his offer. Sure enough, after three (very painful) visits, I felt tons better. He basically dug deep into the bottom of my foot and released what he considered “adhered” fascia. When he was finished, I was back to running pain free.
Although I’d love to have a daily sports massage, I simply cannot afford it. So, I must maintain my calf and foot flexibility through stretching. I have lots of thoughts on flexibility, but that would be an article in itself. I can say that I believe that most people over-stretch muscles, leading to more injury. I think joint flexibility should be gentle and limited to only what your muscles and joints allow.
I didn’t believe it at first, but stretching your hamstrings really helps your heel pain. Just as tight calves lead to heal pain, tight hamstrings lead to tight calves, which lead to tight feet and therefor heel pain. Basically, don’t neglect your hamstrings in your flexibility routine.
After I had plantar fasciitis licked through the fascia release and flexibility, I was back to rigorous running. Eventually though, I started to get more pain. I went back to both therapists, but didn’t get the same dramatic results as the first time. Frustrated, I decided to give acupuncture a try. Although I was very skeptical, freeing up the “chi” really worked. I was actually pain free and back to running with my high school cross country team within about four visits.
Nowadays, my only sensation is tightness in the mornings before I do my stretching routine. If I go backpacking, or overdo it somehow, I pay for it for a week or so, but soon get back on track. Again, I think it’s always going to be a factor, but at least I am back to an active lifestyle. If you have any feedback, please leave me a comment.