When you take those first few steps in the morning after getting out of bed, or after sitting for a while, and the bottoms of your feet hurt like crazy with a burning pain, chances are you have plantar fasciitis, a common overuse injury. That’s the bad news. The good news is that a bit of rest should be enough to get you up and running again.
Knee pain, shin splints and Achilles pain seem to get all the ‘fame and glory’ when it comes to running injuries, whereas the bottom of the foot literally stays out of the limelight. Until you get plantar fasciitis, that is. Then every step just walking around at home can be painful, let alone actually running. If you’re lucky, the pain will go away or get less after a few steps, but your foot may hurt still more as the day goes on, especially when you go up stairs or just stand for a long time.
The plantar fascia is the thick, fibrous band of tissue (fascia) that reaches from the heel to the toes, supporting the muscles and arch of the foot. When this fascia is overly stretched, tiny tears can occur in its surface, causing inflammation and pain when you stand or walk. This is known as Plantar fasciitis, can happen in one foot or both, and is common in middle-aged people, but can also occur in younger people who are on their feet a lot, like athletes or soldiers, especially if:
Your feet roll inward too much (overpronate) when you run.
You have high arches or flat feet.
You walk, stand, or run for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces.
You are overweight.
You wear shoes that don’t fit well or are worn out.
You have tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles.
When you go for a check-up, your doctor will check your feet and watch you stand and walk, and may take an X-ray if he or she suspects a problem with the bones of your foot, such as a stress fracture. Once diagnosed as plantar fasciitis, there is no single treatment that works best for everyone, but there are several things you can try:
Give your feet a rest: Cut back on activities that make your feet hurt, and try not to walk or run on hard surfaces.
Ice your heel: This will reduce the pain and swelling – or take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or aspirin.
Stretch the fascia: Do toe stretches, calf stretches and towel stretches several times a day, especially when you first get up in the morning. (For towel stretches, pull on both ends of a rolled towel that you place under the balls of your feet.)
Replace your shoes: Pick shoes with good arch support and a cushioned sole, or try heel cups or shoe inserts (orthotics).
If these treatments do not help, your doctor may give you a splint to wear at night, shots of steroid medicine in your heel, or other treatments. You probably will not need surgery, which is only recommended for people who still have pain after trying other treatments for six to 12 months. Instead, good old rest is your best bet to get over the problem.