Nearly a year ago, I bruised my heel. So I thought. When it didn’t stop hurting, I went to my doctor. Plantar Fasciitis, he said. What’s that, I said.
The plantar fascia is a band of tissue on the sole of your foot, connecting your heel to your toes. If it tears or gets inflamed, you feel excruciating pain in the bottom of your heel. There is no sure-fire treatment for it.
My doctor recommended a) a Strassburg sock, b) stay off your feet and c) wait. Other treatments, he said, are custom-made insoles, cortisone shots and surgery. He didn’t think they were worth even considering. Wear the Strassburg sock while you sleep, and have patience. It can take 3 or 4 months or longer to heal.
After 4 months and no real relief, I started looking for other remedies or accommodations. Almost everyone I met said they’d had plantar fasciitis or knew someone who had. So from those people and googling, here’s my suggestions. They are in addition to my now well-worn Strassburg sock and well-worn patience.
Buy compression sleeves. They are kind of half socks that put pressure on the middle of your foot. It feels good by keeping your arch up. Before I found one, I used stretchy vet tape. Just wrapped it around my arch and heel, tight enough to feel the pressure from it. Then I bought KT tape and watched a video on how to apply it. Both worked well. Whether tape or compression sleeves, just wear under your regular socks.
Insoles and shoes – crucial to your mobility. I bought Dr Scholl’s plantar fasciitis insoles. They have arch support and a cushioned heel. I wear them in my slippers but you could also put them in your shoes. People have told me that they had orthotic arch supports custom made and they were worth every penny they cost. That’s likely my next move.
Running shoes. The big, multi-coloured type made by Nike or Reebok. I never normally wear them, but I had to have comfortable shoes. And they are! Lightweight, with arch support and cushioned soles.
Riding boots. Cowboy boots or English paddock boots. Both have good arch support and soles. Don’t buy boots designed to look like riding boots. Go to a tack shop and buy real ones. I cleaned up my Mountain Horse winter paddock boots for public wear.
- A frozen water bottle gives pain relief as well as therapeutic movement of the plantar tendon. Put it on the floor, put your foot on it and roll it back and forth.
- A foot massage ball works too. I don’t have one, but I do have a dog’s rough plastic squeaky ball. Same procedure as with the frozen water bottle. Just don’t press too hard or it squeaks!
- Lift your foot off the ground and do the alphabet with it. Making the letters ensures a broad range of movement and muscle stretching.
4. Minimize walking
A step counter might be handy – in reverse of its usual purpose. Got to go upstairs? Wait until you have an armload to take up as well as to bring down. When you’re running errands do only as many as your foot will allow. Sit and rest your foot, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Take your frozen water bottle with you.
So how do you get around?
Getting around town or a work place all day? I don’t know. Maybe a walking stick to take pressure off your foot? A scooter or Segway that lets you move without walking?
My biggest problem was getting to the barn. No huge distance, but it feels it when your heel hurts. Once there, you’re in too much pain to do anything. And you still have to get back. So I got a bicycle. Pedalling doesn’t bother your heel because it’s the middle of your foot pushing on the pedal.
Snow makes a problem, however. Cross-country skis are too unwieldy. Snowshoes put the same pressure on your heel as walking. So I’m experimenting with snow blades – adapting the bindings for my boots or attaching the blades to the bicycle frame. And an ATV works.
I read you should use painkillers sparingly. They mask the pain, so you’ll do more than you should and therefore do more damage. Use them only at night. But if I’ve had to do more than I should and the pain is bad, an extra strength Tylenol or Advil does the trick. But remember you took the pill and don’t push yourself!
Will Plantar Fasciitis go away?
A neighbour said that, after many months, “I woke up one day and the pain was gone.” Another friend still does the foot exercises every day even after his plantar fasciitis seemed cured. Because it can come back.
I’m waiting for the day when poof, it’s gone. But until then, I have to rethink how I get from point A to B – literally. And deal with foot pain without doping myself up to the eyeballs. These tricks and products have made it much more tolerable.