Imagine waking up after a refreshing sleep. You feel rejuvenated, the sun is out, and you’re motivated! You yawn, stretch, and sit up. You step out of bed and…
A sharp, shooting pain flashes from your heel through your arch. It’s enough to make you flop back onto the bed with a yelp.
You wait for the pain to subside and then step gingerly onto the floor, placing your weight on the balls of your feet as you hobble through to the kitchen for coffee.
This is one of the plantar fasciitis warning signs to look out for. One of the most common, in fact—sharp pain in the heel first thing in the morning when you get out of bed.
It sounds like a beautiful morning turned unpleasant! Plantar fasciitis can be a painful condition that has many further-reaching effects, like limiting you from doing your normal daily activities and even leading to depression.
But the good news is that once you know the warning signs, you can pinpoint them quickly and take steps to treat them. With the right treatment, you can live pain-free! Here’s what to look for.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a painful foot condition that affects the thick strip of tissue running underneath your foot. This band of tissue is called the plantar fascia, and it connects the heel to the toes, supporting the arch.
This condition occurs when this strip becomes inflamed. It could result from overuse, overstretching, or an injury. Or it may simply occur because of the shape of your feet or a loss of elasticity as you age.
As well as inflammation, you’ll experience pain. It could be a dull, hardly-noticeable ache at first, but without treatment and rest, it may develop into full-blown sharp, shooting pain.
Often, the pain is at its worst first thing in the morning or when you get up after being seated or lying down for an extended period.
What Are Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
Here are the most common plantar fasciitis warning signs to look out for. If you experience just one, it may be due to something else.
If you experience more than one of these at a time for weeks or months, it’s safe to say that plantar fasciitis is the likely culprit.
This is often the symptom that’s noticed first—a sharp, stabbing pain in the heel bone. It’s not always there, but it occurs most often in the morning or when you get up after being seated for a long period.
In other words, this heel pain occurs most commonly when you activate the plantar fascia after it’s been at rest. When the plantar fascia is resting, it tightens up just like a muscle after a hard gym session.
When you begin to use it again, especially for something like walking that carries your whole body weight, it forces the tissue to stretch, leading to micro-tears and more pain.
You may also experience pain in the arch of your foot. This isn’t usually present in the morning when you experience heel pain, but it occurs more often later in the day, especially if you’ve been on your feet a lot.
One of the responsibilities of the plantar fascia is shock absorption. When inflamed, it can become harder for it to absorb shock, making your arch more susceptible to pain from impact.
It’s also very hard to stay off your feet, so overuse of the plantar fascia when it’s already irritated and inflamed is likely, to increase the chance of pain.
Increased Pain After Exercise
You may not feel excessive pain when exercising, but plantar fasciitis pain often persists after completing your activity.
When the Achilles or the calf muscle tightens, it can place extra strain on the heel, causing the plantar fascia to tighten. This is when the pain occurs.
As well as pain and inflammation, you may experience swelling in your heel. Swelling is the body’s immune system sending fluid with white blood cells to the area for healing.
While the arch may also be inflamed, it’s less likely to notice swelling here due to the natural stretch of the arch.
The Achilles tendon connects to the plantar fascia at the heel. If the plantar fascia is tight, it can also cause the Achilles tendon to become tight, and vice versa.
If you’re experiencing pain in both the underside of your foot and your Achilles, it’s a good indication that you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis.
How to Treat Plantar Fasciitis
Making some small but significant changes can help reduce plantar fasciitis pain noticeably. Here’s what to do if you notice plantar fasciitis warning signs.
Rest Your Feet
Walking, running, jumping, or standing for prolonged periods can aggravate the plantar fascia.
Try to rest your feet whenever possible. It’s a good idea to stretch your feet periodically while resting so that the plantar fascia doesn’t tighten up too much and cause pain when standing up again.
You can also elevate your foot to help reduce swelling. Keep it elevated above the level of your heart for 20 to 30 minutes.
Ice Your Feet
You can use an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes to relieve pain, 3 to 4 times a day. Make sure not to place the ice pack directly on your skin, but rather cover it in a cloth. You could invest in a foot and ankle ice wrap for convenience and to add some compression.
Gently stretching the plantar fascia and the calf muscles will help prevent the muscles and tissues from tightening painfully.
Make sure to stretch before and after exercise, but it’s also a good idea to stretch your feet and calves several times during the day to keep them loose.
Change Your Exercise
If you’ve been doing high-impact exercises like running, basketball, or CrossFit, it may help to change them for low-impact exercises.
Cycling, swimming, rowing, and elliptical are easier on the feet and don’t cause excessive shock. Switching to low-impact exercises can significantly improve the pain over time.
Change Your Shoes
Wearing unsupportive shoes can place excessive pressure on the plantar fascia, leading to increased pain and inflammation.
This is a simple change you can make that has the potential to ease your pain and protect the plantar fascia from harm.
Make sure you choose a pair of shoes with good cushioning to absorb shock and excellent arch support to provide stability.
This isn’t only important for exercise. It’s equally important for work, dress, and casual shoes.
Avoid wearing uncushioned shoes like flip flops or sandals, unless you choose ones with adequate support (like these flip flops or these sandals for plantar fasciitis).
If you stand for long periods, you will need a shoe that offers shock-absorbing cushion and prevents your feet from fatiguing.
Try Supportive Inserts
If you already have shoes and don’t want to buy a new pair, you can buy a pair of insoles or inserts for plantar.
These can be slipped into your shoes and provide more cushioning and support than those that usually come in shoes when you buy them.
You can buy over-the-counter insoles, but ensure you’re getting the right ones for your feet. You want one that offers a good amount of cushioning, but it should also support your feet properly.
If you roll your feet inwards while you walk, it can place pressure on the plantar fascia. You should get an insole made for overpronation to prevent this.
Alternatively, you can visit a podiatrist and get a custom orthotic made, molded from your feet to provide the right support for you.
Use a Night Splint
A night splint is a device that keeps your plantar fascia in a flexed position. This helps prevent the foot from tightening up in the morning and leading to the classic stabbing heel pain.
Some are hard splints, while others are soft. Your choice depends on your preference, but softer ones are usually easier to sleep with.
See A Specialist
If you’ve tried all of the above and have no relief from your pain, you may have to visit a specialist. They may suggest cortisone injections or shockwave therapy to ease the pain and tension in your foot.