What is plantar fasciitis and can walking help?
Adding more walking in to my daily routine has caused me some foot problems. My main one being with the type of shoes I have been wearing. If you need help on choosing the right shoes head over to my blog post on the difference between walking and running shoes to find out more. Another problem you can come up against is knowing how to ease other foot problems such as plantar fasciitis.
Are you looking to know more about plantar fasciitis, how it develops, how it causes pain and how it can be healed? Plantar fasciitis is the pain that sometimes occurs under the heel of your foot. Plantar fasciitis is caused by small injuries to the fascia of the foot. Stretching can help ease the pain of Plantar fasciitis and gentle walking can also ease it.
The structure of your foot
There are times when I feel very sorry for my feet! They put up with a lot including supporting the whole of my body bearing down on them on a daily basis. There are also days when they feel and look a little worse for wear because of it.
To understand the stresses and strains your foot goes under it’s helpful to have a look at the bones in your foot. These can be divided in to three parts:
- The forefoot is made up of the toes (referred to as the phalanges, and five long bones called the metatarsals. The first bone is the largest which is the bone that joins your big toe. Your big toe has two phalanges while the rest of your toes has a set of three phalanges.
- Next is the midfoot, this is the part of the foot which forms the arches.
- The ankle join and the tarsal bones which includes the heel bone is the hindfoot.
Another part of your foot / leg is your Achilles tendon It is just above your heel at the back of your leg. It is the Achilles tendon that joins your heel to you calf. It has an important job as it helps you to bend your foot at the ankle. Give it a go now by pointing your toes. This movement is known as the plantar flexion. I have to say that when my Achilles tendon hasn’t been stretched and I point my toes, I do get cramp – it’s an awful feeling!
There are also ligaments in your heel. These are known as plantar fascia which are a set of strong tissue that goes from your heel to the middle of your foot. These ligaments support the arch of your foot and they also act as a shock absorber when you walk.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a common foot pain which is in the heel. The plantar fascia is tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes. It runs from the back, through the arch of your foot right up to your toes. If this tissue is strained in any way it can get weak. It can sometimes become swollen and inflamed. This means that the heel or the bottom of your foot will hurt when you either stand or sometimes walk on it.
You can get it in one foot or even too. It is most commonly found in those who would be on their feet a lot or people who are middle-aged. It often affects around one in ten people at some point. In fact the common name for it is “jogger’s heel” yet you don’t have to jog to get it!
How is plantar fasciitis is caused
If there is repeated strain on your ligament tissue this can cause plantar fasciitis. This can happen for a number of reasons such as being overweight, your shoes don’t fit well, you have tight calf muscles or a tight Achilles or you have high arches or flat feet.
How is plantar fasciitis diagnosed?
It is usually diagnosed by a health professional after they check over your feet. It can be mistaken for a stress fracture so your doctor may X-ray your foot to check this. The questions your health professional will probably ask to determine if you have plantar fasciitis are usually around what injuries you may have had in the past, what your symptoms are and where the pain is located and what types of activities you do.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
It is usually the pain which is the main issue with plantar fasciitis. If you walk on hard surfaces the pressure on your foot can cause your foot to hurt. The pain is almost always at the bottom of your foot. It is more prevalent when you get up and start walking first thing in the morning as you have been resting all night.
How is plantar fasciitis treated?
Gentle walking may ease the pain of plantar fasciitis. However, it should be limited and should be on soft surfaces. Other ways to treat plantar fasciitis really depends on your symptoms but things you can do yourself to ease the pain of plantar fasciitis includes:
- Rest up when you can and cut back on strenuous exercise. However, gentle walking on soft surfaces is helpful.
- Avoid walking barefoot especially on hard surfaces. Stretch your toes and calves several times a day but not when you first waken.
- Use appropriate socks that offer you arch support.
- Choose a pair of shoes that are cushioned and offer good arch support too.
- You may want to opt for heel pads (check out these ones on Amazon) or shoe inserts to help ease the strain on the arch of your foot.
Why gentle walking will help plantar fasciitis
As mentioned above gentle stretching of your Achilles may help you with any pain you are experiencing. This will help ease the tightness that often occurs with plantar fasciitis. The aim is to loosen up the fascia over time. Gentle walking will also loosen the tendons but do so on soft surfaces such as carpet. Walking on hard surfaces will impact negatively on your foot.
How to prevent plantar fasciitis
There are a few things that you can do to prevent yourself having to go through the pain of plantar fasciitis. They are simple steps that you can start doing today:
- Support your feet by wearing shoes that provide a good cushion for your heel and a great arch support.
- You may have found a great pair of shoes and are wearing them until they are close to throwing in the bin. These will no longer provide support for your foot. Change supportive shoes on a regular basis to ensure continued support of your feet.
- Using walking as a way of helping you lose weight if you need to. You can read how walking helps you lose weight here.
- Walking is a great way to start stretching out the tendons on your foot so start with gentle walking and avoid hard surfaces for a while.
Other heel and foot pain
There are other causes of heel and foot pain other than plantar fasciitis you may want to know about.
- Flat feet may cause foot pain so best to have a pair of shoes that have a great arch support.
- Inflammation of your Achilles heel could cause pain in your ankle. Stretching will help with this.
- Fracture of a foot bone. You would need to visit your doctor for this one!
- Bunions can also cause you pain in your foot, these often occur from wearing shoes that are too tight.
Problems with side foot pain
You can also get pain in the side of your foot too. This may be a result of a sprain, a stress fracture, bunions, corns or callouses. Going to see your doctor about the first two would be recommended.
If you have corns, calluses and bunions these are caused by poor fitting shoes. Probably fashion shoes! I love fashion shoes but over the years they have done my feet no favours at all. My ill fitting shoes have resulted in hammer toes which has caused the bone in several of my toes to protrude and rub against the inside of my shoes. That is why I highly recommend a wider toe box for shoes.
If you want to prevent bunions, corns or callouses there are a few things you can do. I’ve already mentioned getting a pair of shoes that fit you properly and let your toes spread out. Another great idea is to wear proper fitting socks. These should be made of a material to wick away sweat such as bamboo (I’ve just recently ordered bamboo socks to try).
Another tip I highly recommend for callouses especially on the heel of your foot is to soak them in sea salt scrub. After that moisturize them. I highly recommend moisturizing on a regular basis too as this softens the skin.
These are just a few issues that arise when walking. Other issues for me are hard skin and shoes not fitting properly. You can head over to my post on the question “are walking and running shoes the same“. I address the issues to ensure you have all the knowledge at hand to choose the best shoes for you.