04 Jan 2018
I get a lot of questions about pain in the arch of the foot, so thought I would write a blog post about plantar fasciitis.
Arch pain can be common and may be often caused by doing too much of a particular activity too fast, i.e. a sudden increase in activity from what you are used to.
Make sure you are working out on suitable level ground and wearing suitable trainers - I often workout in bare feet - but I am used to that so it doesn’t cause a problem.
If the pain persists or sharpens while exercising - then stop what you are doing, pushing through the pain most often results in injury.
You should also address the underlying cause - weakness and tightness in the muscles and tendons that make up and support the foot, as this may be an injury that returns.
Underlying Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
A number of factors can contribute to plantar fasciitis. While men can get plantar fasciitis, it is more common in women. You're also more likely to have this condition as you age but young people can get it too.
Common causes of plantar fasciitis include:
- Being overweight
- Taking up a new form of exercise or suddenly increasing the intensity of your exercise
- Standing on your feet for several hours each day
- Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus SLE)
- Wearing high-heeled shoes, and switching abruptly to flat shoes
- Wearing shoes that are worn out with weak arch supports and thin soles
- Having flat feet or an unusually high arch
- Having legs of uneven lengths or an abnormal walk or foot position
- Having tight Achilles tendons, or 'heel cords'
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
The symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:
- Pain in the bottom of your foot, especially at the front or centre of the heel bone
- Pain that is worse when first rising in the morning (called "first-step pain"), when first standing up after any long period of sitting, or after increased levels of activity especially in non-supportive shoes
Try the following exercises and repeat daily until the pain subsides, then decrease the amount to 2 - 3 days per week - should take about 5 minutes.
Strengthens the tendons in your heels and calf muscles, which support your arch.
To Do: Raise up on the balls of your feet as high as possible. Slowly lower down. Do three sets of 10 reps. Progress to doing the raises on stairs (with heels hanging off), and then to single-leg raises.
Improves flexibility in your Achilles tendon and calf—when these areas become tight, the arch gets painfully overloaded.
To Do: Stand at the edge of a step, toes on step, heels hanging off. Lower your heels down, past the step, then raise back up to the start position. Do three sets of 10 reps.
Works the arch muscles and the tibialis posterior (in the calf and foot) to control excess pronation.
To Do: While standing, press your toes downward into the ground while keeping the heel planted, so that your foot forms an arch (or dome). Release, and do three sets of 10 reps on each foot.
Toe Spread and Squeeze
Targets the interossei muscles of the foot, which support the arch.
To Do: While sitting, loop a small resistance band around your toes. Spread toes; release. Then place a toe separator (used at nail salons) in between toes. Squeeze toes in; release. Do three sets of 10 reps of each exercise on both feet.
Works the toe-flexor muscles that run along your arch to increase overall foot strength.
To Do: Lay a small hand towel on the floor, and place one foot on the towel. Using just your toes, scrunch the towel toward you, hold, then slowly push the towel away from you back to start position. Do three sets of 10 reps on each foot.