Treating plantar fasciitis can be frustrating for a lot people. Stretching, massaging, and localized treatments only seem to provide temporary relief without fully solving the issue. They end up stuck with annoying foot pain and not knowing what else they can do.
To solve plantar fasciitis, it’s important to understand that while the pain is localized at the foot, it is a full body condition. Which means that treating plantar fasciitis requires a full body approach. And like most conditions of the body, plantar fasciitis is best treated with strength. I’ve put together the complete guide to treating plantar fasciitis so you know what to do to solve foot pain and get back to enjoying your favorite activities.
Switch To Better Shoes
Step #1 to treating plantar fasciitis is finding the right shoes. To promote proper healing your shoes need to allow proper alignment, promote movement, and improve strength of your feet. Therefore, the things you want to look for in a pair of ‘foot healthy’ shoes include:
- Wide Toe Box (To allow for proper foot alignment)
- Flexible Soles (To allow better movement and strength)
- Flat (No heel lift or toe spring)
A helpful graphic from our friends at Correct Toes showing the benefits of flat, wide, and flexible shoes
I recomend Altra’s and Birkenstocks (I’m from Oregon, they’re cool here!) as good transition shoes. As you build strength and feel more comfortable you can make the transition to more minimilist shoes like Vivo Barefoot.
Note: I don’t recomend highly cushioned shoes for plantar fasciitis (like HOKA’s). To solve plantar fascia pain we need STRONG feet. Overly cushioned shoes allow the muscles in our feet to ‘cheat’. Meaning…the shoe does all the work so the muscles in your feet don’t have too. This leads to weak feet that fail to solve your plantar fasciitis.
Improve Foot Alignment
Years of being stuck in narrow and restrictive shoes can change the alignment of our feet and contribute to plantar fasciitis. Restoring feet to their natural alignment promotes foot strength and improves balance and proprioception to solve plantar fascia pain. Using toe spacers (like Correct Toes) helps restore foot alignment for less pain and better function.
Speed Healing With Self Massage And Mobilizations
The best thing to do in the short term to manage pain and speed healing of our plantar fascia pain is to self massage and mobilize our foot. Joint mobilization is a great way to improve movement of the foot for faster healing. Self Massage is a great technique to ease pain. The routine below is best done first thing in the morning when the pain is at it’s worst. To perform, all you need is a tennis or lacrosse ball.
Regain Motor Control Of Our Toes/Feet
Another consequence of spending years of our life being stuck inside stiff and narrow shoes is losing the basic ability to control the movement of our toes. Toe yoga (video below) is a fun test to determine is we can control our feet. It’s also the best exercise to regain toe control and begin strengthening our feet to treat plantar fasciitis.
Strengthen Small Foot Intrinsic Muscles
Our feet have small, intrinsic muscles that support and stabilize our feet. These muscles are often weak in patients with plantar fasciitis. Weakness causes repeated irritation of the plantar fascia which, overtime, leads to pain and dysfunction. The following two exercises are great ways to strengthen your intrinsic foot muscles.
Improve Ankle Mobility
Moving up the kinetic chain it’s important to address movement at the ankle. Many people with plantar facia pain also have stiff ankles. This leads to more impact on the foot and more plantar fascia pain. The following two exercises are my favorite to improve ankle mobility when treating plantar fasciitis.
Functionally Strengthen Your Foot
The foot is the foundation to all movement. To avoid irritating your plantar fascia while walking it’s important your foot is strong enough to support your weight. Strengthening your feet with standing, functional exercises provides the support and stability to solve platar fasciitis while maintaning your lifestyle.
The following three exercises are great ways to build functional strength, stability, and balance in your foot and treat plantar fasciitis. Perform barefoot for best results.
Build Glute Med Strength
Another commonly neglected cause on plantar fasciitis is weakness in our hips. Weakness in the glute medius muscle causes our knee to cave in and foot to roll inward. This leads to strain on your plantar fascia. The more miles you move with this weakness the more likely you’ll have chronic foot pain.
Building strength in our glute medius muscle group orevents our foot from rolling inward and placing strain on the plantar fascia. Click here to find a list of safe and effective Glute Med exercises.
Weakness in glute med and single leg stance cause your knee to cave in and foot to roll inward – contributing to plantar fascia pain.
Barefoot Strengthing Exercises
As mentioned above, while plantar fascia pain is localized at the foot, it is a full body condition. Which is why every plan to solve chronic plantar fasciitis should include full body strengthening exercises. Including exercises like the lunge and the deadlift into your treatment plan will limit foot pain while maintaining your lifestyle as you get older. Performing these exercises barefoot further engages the instrinsic foot muscles for more strength and stability.
In conclusion, weakness is the most common cause of chronic plantar fascia pain. Weakness in the foot, weakness in the hips, weakness in the single leg stance all lead to repeated irritation of the plantar fascia. Overtime this leads to pain and dysfunction. Therefore, strength training is the most effective treatment and needs to be included in every plan to treat plantar fasciitis.
Equipped with the exercises and guidance above, I’m confident you that you will be able to treat plantar fasciitis at home without wasting time, energy and money at the doctor. If you’re wanting more guidance and advise on how to build strength without stressing your joints be sure to download my free guide ‘Solving Pain With Strength’ below.