Heel pain – especially from plantar fasciitis – is something we treat all the time. We are very well equipped to get to the source of a patient’s discomfort and address it effectively, but it’s worth emphasizing two important facts:
- If you currently don’t have heel pain, that doesn’t necessarily mean your risk of getting it in the future is low.
- If you have been treated for heel pain and found relief (which is great!), that doesn’t mean you’re immune from suffering heel pain again (which is terrible).
There is still plenty of good news, though: a proactive approach to preventing plantar fasciitis and other forms of heel pain can make a big difference toward your risk of experiencing them. That means more time being active and more time enjoying life without heel pain constantly dragging you down.
We’ll be outlining some elements of any good plantar fasciitis prevention plan here. Keep in mind, however, that while these steps can be very good for your feet in general, there are still some cases when heel pain will still develop due to circumstances you can’t easily control, such as abnormalities in foot structure. That’s where we can help with more advanced forms of treatment.
Choose (and Use) Supportive Footwear
The shoes you wear can have a major impact on the amount of strain experienced by the plantar fascia along the underside of each foot. A failure to provide support is a detriment, and actually forcing more pressure onto the plantar fascia is even worse!
What do you want to look for in a shoe that can help you avoid plantar fasciitis?
- Support for both the arch and heel. Support should be firm and all-encompassing, supporting the whole of the arch and having a sturdy heel counter. Cushioning is a good thing, but don’t confuse cushioning with actual support.
- A low heel. Having a small rise to the heel is a good thing. Wearing entirely flat shoes can actually place more stress on your plantar fascia. But the higher you raise the heel, the more weight is shifted forward on the foot, causing strain. Any heel above 2 inches is entering a danger zone.
- Comfort. No matter what features a shoe might boast, it isn’t going to help you if you don’t actually feel good wearing it! Discomfort can affect the ways we walk and bear weight, which can result in excess strain in the long run.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess weight can easily lead to excess stress on your arches and heels. The stress of that weight accumulates with every step you take each day, so even a swing of a few pounds can make a significant difference.
Unfortunately, plantar fasciitis doesn’t differentiate between sources of extra weight. Pregnancy, for example, can be an unavoidable one, but we can help if your heels begin to hurt.
Take Time to Stretch
Stretching is often recommended as a form of treatment for plantar fasciitis, but it can be an effective preventative measure, too. A good stretching routine not only focuses on the plantar fascia itself, but other connected areas (such as the calf muscles) that can contribute to strain.
- Doming. While standing, press your toes downward while keeping the heel planted, forming a dome shape with the feet. Hold a few seconds, release, and repeat three sets of 10 for each foot.
- Seated Towel Stretch. This is best done first thing in the morning, with the use of a towel, resistance band, or belt to serve as a strap. Sit up with your legs out in front of you. Hook your strap of choice around the upper part of one foot, just beneath the toes, then gently pull the strap back to flex the upper part of your foot toward you. Hold for 15-20 seconds, repeating 2-4 times per foot.
- Calf Raises. Stand on the edge of a bottom step, with heels hanging off (use a railing or wall for support, if needed). Gently lower your heels downward, below the edge of the step, then gently rise back up to the starting position. Repeat 3 sets of 10.
Pace Your Workout Progress
One of the most direct routes to heel pain is overstraining your aches via overuse. This can come as a result of pushing your body too hard all at once (such as taking off into a dead sprint) or by overloading your arches over time through repetitive impacts (such as from long-distance running).
It takes time and patience to work your body’s strength and endurance up. Always start new routines slowly and gently, and ramp up the intensity gradually per week – no more than a 10% or 15% increase in time, distance, or weight. And if your body still feels overloaded by a change, dial it back a bit.
Extra Help from Family Foot & Ankle
Sometimes more specialized approaches can make or break your chances of avoiding heel pain. And, as we said before, sometimes heel pain still happens despite your best efforts.
For both of these cases, we can help you determine your risk areas and address your heel pain in ways that can greatly help your situation. If a structural abnormality is in the picture, for example, we might recommend custom orthotics to more properly distribute your weight and other forces across your feet, taking excess pressure off your plantar fascia and connecting elements.
Let us help you keep heel pain out of your picture. Call us at (513) 728-4800 to schedule an appointment, or fill out our online contact form if you prefer to reach out to us electronically.