If you have heel pain, chances are you have plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis accounts for 10-22% of injuries in runners and affects 10% of the general population.
We help many patients recover from plantar fasciitis at Prolete Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine because physical therapy modalities such as massage, stretching, and strengthening exercises are the first line of treatment.
You can prevent plantar fasciitis if you know the triggers, but that’s not as easy as it sounds because there are many possible causes. Here’s what you need to know about avoiding plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury
The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel to your toes. A healthy plantar fascia supports the arch in your foot and absorbs shock every time your heel hits the ground. That means the ligament withstands an incredible amount of pressure.
Although the ligament is designed to bear the strain, it’s susceptible to repetitive stress and overuse damage. Without time to heal, the progressive degeneration of the ligament eventually leads to further damage, tearing, and substantial heel pain.
Preventing plantar fasciitis
When you know what triggers plantar fasciitis, you can prevent the problem by taking steps to avoid the triggers. Here are the top three risk factors for plantar fasciitis and how to prevent them.
Limited ankle dorsiflexion
Ankle dorsiflexion refers to the action of raising your foot toward your shin, or flexing your foot in an upward (dorsal) direction, a movement you use every time you take a step.
Limited ankle dorsiflexion is the top risk factor for plantar fasciitis in nonathletes. Without this mobility, your foot rolls inward when you walk, or overpronates. Overpronation then puts more stress on the plantar fascia.
The most common causes of limited ankle dorsiflexion include:
- Flat feet
- Tight calf muscles
- Ankle injury
- Hip and back pain
Unfortunately, there are many possible reasons you could end up with an ankle injury, hip or back pain, or tight calf muscles. The best preventive advice is to stay in good shape by maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise.
Most importantly, include stretching in your exercise regimen because keeping the plantar fascia and calf muscles flexible prevents strain on the ligament.
Spending most of the day on your feet
When you stand for a long period of time, the plantar fascia continuously stretches and contracts, creating the perfect environment for repetitive strain and an overuse injury.
If you must stand a lot during the day, take regular breaks to move and stretch. Customized orthotics also help if you have issues like low or high arches. Also, don’t stand for prolonged periods while wearing high heels.
Repetitive high-impact activities
Athletes and people who are active in high-impact activities, especially those that involve running or jumping, have a high chance of an overuse injury leading to plantar fasciitis. To prevent the problem, you can take these steps:
- Lose weight, if necessary
- Follow a regular stretching regimen
- Wear athletic shoes that support your arches
- Use orthotics to correct problems like low arches or overpronation
- Get enough rest between bouts of training and competition
You may love high-impact activities, but you’re on a sure path to plantar fasciitis if you constantly do nothing but run or jump all year round. Mix it up a little by alternating with low-impact exercises.
Recognize the early signs
Another way to head off a serious problem is to recognize the early signs of plantar fasciitis and get your foot, ankle, and leg evaluated for potential overuse injuries, mechanical problems, or other triggers.
Heel pain is the most frequent symptom, but don’t wait until you have constant, excruciating pain. Instead, be on the lookout for the earliest sign: heel pain when you first get up in the morning or after a long period of rest, such as a car ride.
The pain occurs because the ligament tightens while you’re inactive. Putting sudden pressure on it when you get up quickly triggers pain, but then it improves after a few minutes as you start to move around and stretch your calf muscles and plantar fascia.
At the first sign of heel pain, call our office in Milford, Connecticut, or book an appointment online so we can help you develop a customized plan to avoid plantar fasciitis.