BY RONALD HULL, DPM
Special to the Times
When your feet first touch the floor after you wake up in the morning, do you feel an ache or pain in the heel of your foot? Does the pain recur when you stand up after sitting for as little as 20 minutes?
You may have plantar fasciitis, a painful but treatable condition that causes sharp pain in your heel (sometimes extending towards your toes) that generally goes away after walking for a few minutes.
The plantar fascia is a connective tissue that extends from your heel to your toes. If the tissue becomes irritated and inflamed — a condition called plantar fasciitis (fash–ee-ai-tis) — pain can result.
Fortunately, treatment is usually simple and can be done at home.
Start with a good shoe
One of the best ways to prevent plantar fasciitis, and to address it after it begins, is to have a supportive, well-fitted shoe. Your shoe should have a rigid, enclosed heel that is roughly 0.25–0.5 inches high and a sole that is comfortable but not too soft. It should also flex near the toes and not in the arch.
The right pair of shoes will help support the natural movements of your feet while absorbing some of the shock that comes from walking.
Stretch in the morning, ice in the evening. If your pain is present most days, start each morning with a few minutes of stretching. Sit on the floor, grab your toes and pull them towards you. You should feel the foot stretching, but the stretch should not be painful and you should be able to breathe normally.
If the stretches alleviate the pain, continue them for at least two days after the pain stops.
At the end of the day, help reduce the inflammation that has built up by rolling a frozen bottle of water along the underside of your foot for about 10 minutes.
Finally, if it is safe for you to do so, take an adult dose of ibuprofen or naproxen to help alleviate your pain — both are over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory and pain reducing medications. Continue the medication for 10–14 days, even if the pain stops.
Your doctor can help
If your pain doesn’t go away after two weeks, talk with your doctor. He or she can refer you to a podiatrist who can offer a variety of treatments, including night splints, physical therapy or orthotic inserts. There are surgical options available, but they are rarely necessary.
Ronald Hull, DPM, is a podiatrist who has been in practice for 26 years and is affiliated with Eden Medical Center.