If you or someone you know is struggling with plantar fasciitis, don’t fret — there are multiple, non-surgical ways you can treat pain caused by this condition:1,2
• Getting adequate rest: an important step in eliminating plantar fasciitis-related pain is to lessen or avoid activities that cause the pain in the first place, such as athletic activities wherein your feet pound on hard surfaces (these include running or step aerobics).
• Placing ice on the affected area: rolling your foot over ice or a cold water bottle for 20 minutes, three to four times a day can be effective. However, if the pain has not subsided after two to three days, adding heat to the area using a hot compress or hot packs could help.
• Stretching exercises: tight muscles in your feet and calves can trigger the onset of plantar fasciitis, so make sure to follow stretching exercises that focus on your calves and plantar fascia.
• Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT): a non-invasive procedure, ESWT involves high-energy shockwave impulses that stimulate healing in damaged plantar fascia tissue. In some cases, ESWT is sometimes tried before surgery is brought up, because it has minimal risk.
However, there are no consistent findings on the effectivity of ESWT, so it’s not commonly performed.
• Physical therapy: consult with a physical therapist who can work with you on an exercise program that concentrates on stretching both your calf muscles and plantar fascia.
This physical therapy program might also involve specialized ice treatments, massage and medication to reduce inflammation around the plantar fascia.
Use the Right Type of Footwear
Given that plantar fasciitis affects your foot, making the right choice when it comes to footwear is a crucial step (no pun intended), as shoes that fit poorly can cause frequent foot pain. If you wear high-heeled shoes frequently, these can build pressure on your toes and trigger other foot problems.3
It is recommended that plantar fasciitis patients wear an insole that can be bought over-the-counter and cut into a quarter-size hole to surround the painful area.4 You can also use or purchase orthotic shoes,5 which are worn to support your feet and correct common foot ailments. This type of shoe may aid in decreasing rotational movements and increasing arch and overall foot support.6
Shoes that provide ample support to your feet are valuable as well, especially if they have thick soles and extra cushioning, as they lessen pain when you stand and/or walk. This is because when you take a step and your heel strikes the ground, tension is placed on your fascia, leading to the formation of microtrauma or tiny tears in the tissue. Cushioned shoes or inserts work by decreasing tension and microtrauma formation.7
Another good yet inexpensive option for potentially lessening foot pain is by using soft silicone heel pads. They work by elevating and cushioning your heel.8
Night splints are also helpful for plantar fasciitis patients, especially since most people sleep with their feet pointed down, which relaxes the plantar fascia and often leads to morning heel pain. By using a night split, you stretch your plantar fascia while sleeping.9
Stay Away From These ‘Ideal’ Treatment Methods
Unfortunately, there are treatment protocols for plantar fasciitis that may look effective in treating pain, but could actually pave the way for future disasters.
Surgical procedures are an example. Around 95 percent of people with plantar fasciitis can opt for pain relief sans the surgery.10 Additionally, risks such as frequent heel pain, infection, longer healing time for wounds and delays in being able to do your normal activities are common in people who undergo surgery.11
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), despite their “ability” to eliminate inflammation (a major hallmark of plantar fasciitis12) won’t do any good for you as well. This class of medicines essentially prevent your body to synthesize prostaglandins, or hormone-like chemicals created in response to cell injury.
Different studies have shown that NSAIDs can cause side effects such as an upset stomach, nausea and vomiting, heart problems, GI bleeding, kidney problems, hypertension and even death.