Dealing with Plantar Fasciitis

I am not a medical professional. The advice shared below is based solely on my personal experience and what has worked for me after a lot of trial and error. Please consult with your doctor as appropriate.

Once upon a time, I was a runner. Not a marathon runner, but I ran 3-4 miles several times a week. I also belonged to an adult kickball league, and as luck would have it, tore my ACL, MCL and bruised my bones while I tried to leap for the base to avoid being tagged. That was the end of my kickball career. Fast forward a few months, and I had ACL reconstruction, had started physical therapy, and decided that I wanted to run again. Admittedly I probably went way too hard way too fast, and long story short, I ended up with plantar fasciitis in both feet.

I woke up every morning and braced myself for the searing pain that would come the minute my feet touched the ground. After a few weeks of mild stretching with no improvement, I dragged myself to a orthopedist who specialized in feet. A few x-rays later, he confirmed that indeed, I did have plantar fasciitis in both feet and referred me to someone who would create custom insoles to help the issue. So off I went, got the custom inserts, AND had to buy new shoes because they made my own shoes too tight and uncomfortable. And all that expense later, I found that while my feet didn’t hurt as much when I was wearing the inserts, they were still incredibly painful on a daily basis.

With modern medicine doing absolutely nothing for me, I turned to acupuncture. Now while acupuncture works for many things, it did nothing significant for my plantar fasciitis - I was still in pain. I turned to a massage therapist, still no improvement. And finally, after nearly 3 years of dealing with this issue, I found myself with a chiropractor.

My chiropractor diagnosed me with mis-aligned hips that resulted from years of carrying a laptop bag predominantly on one side of body, and most importantly, with extremely tight hamstrings that were a result of overdeveloped quads from years of running and spinning. Apparently the tight hamstrings were pulling on my calves, which in turn were pulling on my achilles tendon, which in turn were pulling on my plantar fascia - ergo, plantar fasciitis.

[Related: my hip mis-alignment led me to give up “cute” shoulder laptop bags and change to backpacks. I recently found the most perfect work to gym backpack - click through the link for more]

As part of my treatment, my chiropractor recommended a few activities:

  1. More yoga, specifically poses to stretch out the backs of my legs. Downward dog is the most effective. I’m also a big fan of hero’s pose, and although it felt like a million knives at first, over time, my feet started to adapt to the intense stretch. [Here is a great roundup of yoga stretches for your feet]

  2. Daily stretches: I stand on the bottom stair of my staircase in my bare feet with my heels off the step, lightly holding the bannister for support. I then get on my tip toes, and slowly sink my heels below the level of the step, feeling a very deep stretch in my ankles and calves. I raise and lower myself 10 times - that’s usually good for daily maintenance, but when i first started, I was doing this 3 times a day

  3. When starting a new high impact activity, go slow, and increase the amount of stretching

And that’s it. It’s really just that simple. Turns out that despite spending lot of $ on fancy solutions like inserts, the most effective solution has been some simple stretches practiced daily.

So if you’re struggling with pain in your heels or feet and are certain that you haven’t broken any bones, you might want to try some of the stretches I’ve mentioned above. It takes a little bit of time, but if you do them several times a day, every day, you might start to see some improvement before you start to spend some serious $ on a medical professional.

Again, I want to reiterate that I am NOT a doctor. Please do not treat this post as medical advice. This has been my experience with plantar fasciitis, and may be helpful if you’re suffering with the same issue. If you are in severe pain, or might have other complications, please see a medical professional immediately.