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What to do if you develop Plantar Heel Pain

What to do if you develop Plantar Heel Pain

In our last blog we started discussing Plantar Heel Pain. We raised some really important topics including why spring is plantar heel pain season, why we call it “Plantar Heel Pain” and not “Plantar Fasciitis”, and who is more susceptible to getting Plantar Heel Pain.

We hope you took away some knowledge and had something to share around the dinner table (do people still eat at the dinner table?).

Today we’re going to discuss a few things you can do if you start to develop Plantar Heel Pain. We hope these simple and easy steps halt the progression of your heel pain and mean you can carry on with your life, Plantar Heel Pain free.

Step 1: Strengthen and Lengthen 

Lack of ankle dorsiflexion brought on by tight calf muscles has long been linked as a cause of plantar heel pain. More recent research shows that high load strengthening is superior to calf stretching in the treatment of plantar fasciopathy. We recommend you do both!

Adequate ankle dorsiflexion allows for normal and uncompensated walking which reduces the strain and subsequent load on the plantar fascia. High load strengthening increases the load tolerance of the plantar fascia to be able to cope with more strain.

It’s a two-prong approach and good place to start when combatting your plantar heel pain.

Calf stretching
5 minutes morning and night, holding each stretching for 30 seconds minimum.

Double Leg Windlass Calf Raise
Raise onto your toes for 10-15 seconds, perform 6-8 repetitions for 3 sets. 5 x weekly.

Step 2: Footwear

What you place under your foot when you have plantar heel pain is hugely important.

Footwear helps to dissipate the force from the ground, optimise the natural fat pad under your feet, and reduce the strain through your calves and plantar fascia.

Often you will notice a change in your symptoms after prolonged use of certain footwear.

Typically, footwear like runners will feel the best due to their cushioning, good fixation to the foot, and natural heel-to-forefoot pitch. This pitch is the height in the heel in comparison to the height in the forefoot. This helps to reduce some tension through your calves and the subsequent strain on the plantar fascia.

Footwear like ballet flats, thongs often exacerbate your symptoms because they are flat and lack supportive characteristics. It is probably best to reduce your use of these styles of footwear. This also means minimising your barefoot time.

Essentially this means using the footwear that make it feel the best, and avoid the shoes that aggravate it.

Step 3: Support through taping

Specific plantar fascial taping has proven benefits for both pain and function in plantar heel pain.

The aim is the create an external support mechanism to reduce the burden on the plantar fascia to support and propel the foot.

It is a great short-term treatment option and quite a strong indicator of whether orthotics will be a worthwhile treatment option.

Tape doesn’t last forever and will only be supportive for 2-3 days. It’s also recommended you have a rest from taping to reduce skin irritation. Please don’t tape if you have an allergy to tape or adhesives.

Here is a taping video you can try at home in the initial stages of your plantar heel pain. There are a 100 different ways to tape for plantar heel pain. This is probably the least technical that we hope will be relatively easy to follow.

Watch a video of how to tape for plantar heel pain here:

 

In Summary  

Your plantar fascia gets irritated most commonly due to what you place under your feet, your body weight, a number of other mechanical factors that increase the strain on the plantar fascia, and a weakness or degeneration of the fascia. Initial management should aim to amend these factors.

Stretching, taping and footwear all help to reduce the strain and load on the plantar fascia while high load strengthening helps to increase its tolerance.

We hope these simple and easy steps have been helpful and halt the progression of your heel pain.

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