In short: yes!
The world of medicine is always changing and full of surprises; as a physical therapist, one thing that continues to surprise me is how many people have a painful area of their body and are willing to accept living with it like that…forever! Now, don’t get me wrong, there are certainly some conditions that require managing a degree of pain or dysfunction long term, BUT there are so many other conditions that do not fall under that umbrella! One condition in particular that people seem to deal with long term, even though it is “fixable” is plantar fasciitis. Let me repeat that: plantar fasciitis can go away for good! If you’ve been rolling a frozen water bottle under your foot, stretching your calves, and wearing cushy shoes ‘round the clock without much improvement - don’t panic! There is so much more that can, and should, be done!
In case you didn’t already know, fascia is connective tissue we have all throughout our body forming tons of connections between different body parts. Plantar fascia is the name for the especially thick (like, really thick) and strong fascia on the bottom of your feet. This extends from your heel toward your toes, where it winds and connects with the muscles between your toes.
Stretching your calves is good, but don’t neglect stretching your big toe! Remember that the fascia connects to your toes, so you have to be stretching your toes, and especially your big toe, in order to really stretch it. (great toe ext and abd)
Stretch your hamstrings! This may seem strange, but also remember that fascia in general connects a lot of different muscles and areas of the body. So, stretching your hamstrings can do good things for your back, but also for your calves and feet! (supine hamstring stretch)
Your feet have tons of muscles, and if those muscles aren’t strong enough, then that plantar fascia starts doing a lot more work than it was designed to do which can lead to pain over time. These are some of my favorite starting exercises to start making feet stronger! I promise with practice these get easier!
Important tip: Try to avoid scrunching your toes. This is hard! Think about trying to bring the knuckle of your big toe toward your heel
GREAT TOE EXTENSION (FROM FLOOR)
Important tip: Again, try to avoid scrunching your other toes! If you need to as you get started, use a finger to hold the other toes down or to help lift the big toe
GREAT TOE EXTENSION (STANDING/IN CHAIR)
Important tip: What you’re trying to do is push your big toe down into the floor, and then relax. You should feel this on the bottom of your foot/arch!
Like with all injuries, we have to make sure other areas of our body are moving well too, because the spot where you feel the pain isn’t necessarily the true cause of why this all started! We can’t ignore the hips, and certainly never the core.
SINGLE LEG RDL, CLAMSHELLS
Other helpful tips:
Do your best to stretch first thing in the morning and/or after you’ve been sitting for a long time. You may have noticed this is when you feel the most pain, and this can make standing and walking more comfortable.
Spend some time barefoot on soft surfaces, like a carpet, sand at the beach, or grass. Wearing shoes when on harder surfaces or when standing/walking quite a bit is certainly helpful, but being in shoes 24/7 doesn’t help our strength or flexibility!
Try out some toe spacers! This helps stretch the toes apart and get better bloodflow through your feet - and remember that the fascia weaves into the muscles between the toes!
If you’ve been told by a physician, coach, physical therapist, chiropractor, trainer, WebMD, ANYONE that you’re going to be plagued by this forever - please, don’t settle for that. Calf stretching, shoewear changes, ice, and orthotics are just a piece of treatment, not the entirety of it!
Questions? Are you local to us and like the sound of a thorough movement assessment and detailed treatment plan to start feeling your best? Check us out at coreptp.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org, we can’t wait to see you!