Summertime! The foot has a love-hate relationship with summer fun. Soaking in a cool lake , tickling the toes in the sand or just feeling breezy in open-toed shoes.
But all good things come to an end. Weather gets summery and we change the foot’s habitat. Flip flops and beautiful bare feet are the styles. This is when the foot gets tested. And possibly angry.
The foot usually has a quiet winter snuggled indoors with cozy shoes, boots , Netflix and a couch. The weather gets summery and we are off! Running, hiking, golfing, playing tennis and pickleball. We even walk more than usual whilst playing tourist on our holidays. This is all too much for the plantar fascia. And it will let you know. There are no subtleties with this injury.
Pain is in the arch of your foot. Sometimes it’s very point-specific and directly on the heel bone. The pain can be intense, sharp or a deep ache. Often it feels like a pebble is stuck in your shoe. Pain is worse in the morning and after sitting. You will be sporting a limp for the first few steps. The word “hobble” comes to mind.
This arch discomfort settles down once you get moving, however. Does this sound familiar? If so, don’t ignore this injury. It ranks high on the list of “naggy injuries.”
Here are some friendly foot tips :
1) Ice massage: freeze water in a water bottle and then roll foot back and forth over the arch. Or better yet, submerge your foot in a bucket of ice water. Traditional ice packs also work well.
2) Golf ball massage: find the sore spot and roll over it. Tennis balls work also. But golf balls get in a bit deeper. You can also get your thumb or the eraser end of a pencil and dig in!
3) Plantar Fascia Stretch:
A) Cross your affected leg over your other leg;
B) Using the hand on your affected side, take hold of your affected foot and pull your toes back towards shin. This creates tension/stretch in the arch of the foot/plantar fascia;
C) Footwear: This is the most important tip of all. Make sure your running/hiking/golf/tennis shoes are supporting your foot. Calculate how old your shoes are. Most people are usually surprised at how old their shoes actually are. The first thing that ages in a shoe is the cushioning. Think of the plantar fascia like a suspension bridge. If it’s inflamed and swollen it needs some support. A cheap arch support bought from the pharmacy may be the best 25$ you ever spend.
D) Physiotherapy: But, of course! Sometimes you just have to come and see us! Especially if the pain persists. A good biomechanical foot/lower leg assessment is needed. Is there something unique about your foot? Is your midfoot flat? Is it
rigid? Is your calf muscle extra tight? How much range of motion is in your big toe? All of these can place stress on your plantar fascia. Your physio will assess all of these factors, in addition to your footwear, orthotics, and gait.
You can be footloose and fancy-free this summer. Just give your feet a bit of respect and be kind to them. They hold grudges!
Cheryl Witter is a physiotherapist and the owner of Spine and Sports North End in Vernon