Do you have plantar fasciitis? If you do, you are not alone; it is one of the most common causes of heel pain and one in 10 people will experience it in their lifetime. Those familiar with the stabbing pain associated with it know that the condition makes it a challenge to perform activities like running, playing tennis or simply taking a leisurely stroll around the park. Many people who have it do not know if they can continue to work out with it or not, which can lead to other health issues.
This post will cover what cardio exercises you can do while suffering from plantar fasciitis and how to stretch your feet so that you can get back on track and stay healthy!
Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms
Plantar fasciitis symptoms present themselves in the bottom of the foot. It is a stabbing, pulling pain that occurs near the part of the heel that’s closest to the back of the toes, and it’s a tell-tale sign that the connective tissue (fascia) has become inflamed or injured.
The pain tends to hurt the worst in the morning after you get out of bed and take a few steps. It can be triggered by standing or sitting for extended periods, and the pain is typically worse after exercise, but not during the time you are doing it.
The fascia supports the foot’s arch and absorbs shock whenever we walk, run, etc. If tension, stress and overuse to the fascia gets to be too much, it causes micro-tears to occur. Repeated stretching, tearing and striking (e.g. feet to pavement) can inflame and irritate the fascia .
Plantar fasciitis is a condition that seems to be more common in people who are overweight, have flat feet and/or high arches, or overpronate (foot rolls inward) when walking or running. Also, poor nutrition can be a risk factor, especially when it comes to chronic deficiencies of magnesium. This mineral, when combined with a vitamin D deficiency, can compromise the body’s ability to utilize serum calcium, which is needed for healthy bone and blood tissue.
Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis
If you do not take care of your feet and suffer from plantar fasciitis, it can cause other health problems. The condition can also lead to other foot issues that you will need to address if it is not treated properly, such as heel spurs and Achilles tendonitis. Here are a few treatment options available:
- Cortisone shots: This treatment can be an option if the pain is too unbearable, but they can have severe side effects that range from rapid weight gain to pancreatitis.
- Chiropractic therapy: There are many approaches chiropractors can take to help relieve the tension and inflammation of the feet through manipulation, adjustments or other treatments. A chiropractor can also help you perform specific exercises, stretches and movements that can help alleviate the stabbing pain of plantar fasciitis.
- Surgery: If you are in a lot of pain, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove any damaged or inflamed tissue around the heel area. Unfortunately, the surgery doesn’t always work and may even worsen your condition.
What should I do in the first 72 hours after the injury?
The best thing you can do in the first 72 hours after injury is the RICE method.
RICE is a technique that doctors often use to treat an injury, such as plantar fasciitis. The acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Here is some more detail about what’s involved.
R – Rest
First of all, give the injured area a rest! This will allow the tissue to heal in peace, avoiding further pain. With plantar fasciitis, it is important to give your feet time off because when you exercise or walk with this condition, the plantar fascia tightens up—which then causes inflammation that leads to more pain.
I – Ice
Next, you should apply ice to your heel at least three times a day for up to 20 minutes each time. Ice will help reduce the pain and swelling in your heel.
C – Compression
Applying an ace wrap or a compression bandage around your foot can also offer relief from plantar fasciitis symptoms by helping to stabilize the fascia.
E – Elevate
The final step is elevating your feet. You should raise your feet above the level of your heart to reduce swelling and pain. you can do this by elevating the foot and leg on pillows or blankets when you are resting. This will help reduce swelling. You can even try using an inflatable pillow designed specifically for this purpose.
H – Heat
Heat treatment should be used only after the inflammation and pain have been reduced by RICE, or you may do more harm than good. If your plantar fasciitis is caused by an underlying condition such as arthritis or diabetes, heat can help loosen tight muscles in order to relieve some of that discomfort.
Should I or Should I not Exercise?
If you are suffering from Plantar Fasciitis, exercise may be difficult. You must avoid any activity that causes pain, including running or jumping sports. You can, however, start with some simple stretches and exercises to begin building strength in the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon without straining them too much.
If you are a runner, what you don’t want to do is run on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt; that may cause the heel pain to return or aggravate fascia that isn’t healed all the way. Instead, choose a soft surface like grass, sand or track.
What follows are some stretches and exercises you can use to help condition the muscles around the foot and ankle and provide relief from pain caused by plantar fasciitis.
Stretching your feet is the first step to working out with plantar fasciitis. Make sure that you are doing these stretches before and after each workout, or at least twice per day if possible. How do you do it? Stretch toes back, grab onto your big toe and pull it towards you. Hold this for 20 seconds Repeat on other foot.
Here are five other stretches you can do:
- Towel scrunch: Start with a towel laid out on the floor. Stand barefoot on one end of it with your heels hanging off the edge of the towel. Using only your toes, scrunch up the towel toward you without moving your feet or legs. This can be done on any floor surface that has enough grip to allow you to perform this exercise.
- Wall stretch: Stand with your hands on a wall in front of you. With one foot about three feet back, lean into the wall until you feel a stretch along the arch and outside edge of that foot. Hold for 30 seconds before switching to repeat this stretch with your other leg forward.
- Calf raises: These are simple calf raises performed standing on a step or curb with one leg while holding onto something for balance if necessary. Be sure to keep your knees straight and use the muscles of your calves, not just your ankles, to lift yourself up on tiptoe as high as possible before slowly lowering back down again.
- Standing toe raises: You can also do toe raises to help strengthen your feet and ankles. Stand with a sturdy object behind you for balance if necessary, then slowly raise up on the tips of your toes before going back down. Aim for 15-20 reps in each set.
- Ankle circles: Start by putting your hands on your hips. Slowly lift one leg, flexing the foot so that you are standing on just the toes of that foot with both knees slightly bent. Raise the ankle up and circle it in a clockwise direction five times before switching to do this movement counterclockwise for another five reps.
These stretches should be done regularly in order to help minimize pain associated with Plantar fasciitis and strengthen the muscles around your feet so they can take on more of the load. If you don’t want to go through these exercises or just cannot do them because of the pain, ask your doctor about other options that may be available to you.
You want to do cardio exercises that won’t aggravate your fascia, but instead, work to eliminate its pain and stiffness. Here’s a suggested list of effective cardio exercises that target and strengthen the ankles and fascia tissue:
- Walking: Walking is one of the best exercises that you can perform to strengthen your feet and legs, which may lead to relief from pain caused by plantar fasciitis. You should start with short walks around the house or office. Then gradually increase the time spent walking per day so it does not strain your feet and legs.
- Elliptical machine: The elliptical machine provides another great alternative for people who cannot do traditional running while recovering from plantar fasciitis. This will allow you to work on cardio while minimizing the stress being put on your foot and Achilles tendon as well as strengthening muscles in your legs so they can take more of a load during exercise.
- Treadmill: The treadmill is another good option if you need to get your heart rate up because it will allow you to change the incline. If possible, choose a flatter setting and increase speed instead of increasing the grade. This way, there won’t be as much pressure on your feet or ankles. You can also try to add some intervals, such as running for one minute and walking for 30 seconds.
- Stationary bicycle: The stationary bike is another good option if you need to get your heart rate up because it will allow you to change the resistance instead of having a constant incline like on a treadmill. If possible, choose an easier setting and increase the speed instead of increasing the resistance. This way, there won’t be as much pressure on your feet or ankles.
- Rowing machines: These machines offer a great way to strengthen your legs and feet without putting too much stress on them. Be sure to keep your knees straight as you row, rather than allowing the muscles in the front of your leg to do all the work. This will help prevent injury while strengthening those hard-to-reach calf muscles.
- Handcycle: This land vehicle, which is often used by paraplegics, is another great option for heel pain since it is powered by your arms and hands vs. your legs and feet. A handcycle doesn’t put too much pressure on your fascia, allowing you to strengthen your leg muscles while also increasing blood flow, which can aid the healing process in the injured, inflamed tissue.
You should also try to perform other exercises that will help condition your muscles and increase blood flow, which can lead to the elimination of plantar fasciitis. Here are some conditioning exercises you can do:
- Battle ropes: Battle ropes are a great way to build strength in your legs and feet while also conditioning. Keep knees straight throughout the movement, but don’t lock them out completely either.
- Sprints: Sprints are a great way to build up your cardio capacity while strengthening the muscles in your legs and feet. Start with short sprints at top speed, then try longer distances as time goes on.
- Weight lifting: You can also perform weight lifting exercises that will help strengthen the major muscle groups used during running or swimming workouts without putting too much stress on the plantar fascia or Achilles tendon. For example, squats and lunges can help strengthen your hamstrings and quads while deadlifts will work the muscles in your calves.
Strength Training Exercises
If you have a few weeks to build strength in your muscles before beginning an exercise routine, try these exercises that can help strengthen the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon:
- Leg curl: Lie on your stomach with a rolled-up towel under the arch of one foot. Bend your knee to slowly curl the towel toward you, hold for two seconds then slowly lower it back to its starting position before doing another rep. Do three sets of 12 reps each leg every day until you feel stronger in that foot and ankle area.
- Leg extension: Stand with your back against a wall and your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly raise one leg straight out in front of you until it is parallel to the ground, hold for two seconds then slowly lower before repeating on the opposite side. Do three sets of 12 reps each leg every day until you feel stronger in that foot and ankle area.
- Band swings: Stand with your back against a wall and place one foot in front of you. Place an elastic exercise band around the arch of that foot with both ends held in the same hand, then slowly raise it up to chest height while keeping your raised leg straight throughout the movement. Slowly lower before repeating on each side for three sets of 12 reps every day until you feel stronger in that foot and ankle area.
- Bench press: Stand in front of a bench or chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower yourself down to the bench by bending at the hips and keeping both knees slightly bent, then slowly press yourself back up before repeating on each side for three sets of 12 reps every day until you feel stronger in that foot and ankle area.
- Pull-ups: This exercise can be performed with or without a pull-up bar, but it’s best to do them using the latter. If you have access to one, place your hands on the edge of the bar at shoulder-width apart and slowly lower yourself down by bending at the hips while keeping both knees slightly bent. Slowly press yourself back up before repeating for
- Dips: Sit on a chair or bench with your hands behind you gripping the edge of it, then slowly slide yourself out until both legs are long and straight. Slowly bend at the waist to lean back as far as possible before pressing up using nothing but your heels to lift yourself back into starting position for three sets of 12 reps every day until you feel stronger in that foot and ankle area.
- Push-ups: Get on the floor in a push-up position with your feet together, then slowly lower yourself down until just before you hit the ground while keeping both elbows directly beneath your shoulders for three sets of 12 reps every day until you feel stronger in that foot and ankle area.
- Ab wheel: Get on the floor in a push-up position with your feet together, then slowly lower yourself down until just before you hit the ground while keeping both elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Place one hand at the center of an ab wheel and place your other hand behind it for support (if needed), then slowly roll it out as far as possible without allowing your hips to dip. Slowly roll it back in before repeating for three sets of 12 reps every day until you feel stronger in that foot and ankle area.
Try Aerobic Exercise Classes
There are aerobic classes such as yoga, Pilates, Zumba, and many more that can help with plantar fasciitis while keeping you in shape.
Pilates exercises help to stretch and strengthen the muscles around your hip, which can help with heel pain. Some effective ones to try include the Hundred, the Side Plank and the Bird Dog.
Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility and balance. This may be particularly helpful for those who are suffering from plantar fasciitis because it will help you strengthen the muscles surrounding your foot while minimizing strain on the tendon itself.
In addition, many yoga poses can help stretch out your calves, which will keep plantar fasciitis at bay. Yoga should ideally be done every day, but if you are unable to do it every day, try doing a few sessions per week.
Try Triangle Pose, Downward-Facing Dog, Supermans, Cat/Cow and Child’s Pose to begin with.
Ditch the heels for Zumba classes as this is a great way to improve your balance and coordination. Since obesity can be a risk for plantar fasciitis, it is also a good way to burn some calories. You can also try aqua jogging or taking a class such as Aqua Zumba in order to get more out of this form of exercise.
Rely on Cool Springs Chiropractic for Relief from Heel Pain
You don’t need expensive, invasive surgery or medication to get relief from plantar fasciitis and other types of heel pain. Instead, get in touch with our team at Cool Springs Chiropractic to get started on a natural, inexpensive way to treat your foot pain.
We offer several different non-invasive treatments that work well for heel pain including chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy. We can tailor a plan that fits your lifestyle and individual symptoms while helping you get on the road to recovery.
Contact us today. We’d love to help!