Saturday, February 28, 2009

Healthy Feet for springtime activities

Spring, and the warm sunny weather that comes with it, is almost here, so it is time to dig through the closet and dust off your running and golf shoes. Unfortunately, for many the spring fun will be put on hold because of nagging foot pain. Heel pain is often debilitating, causing people to alter their work schedule, exercise schedule, and their lives in general. As a podiatrist, I encounter heel pain many times every day. The extent to which the pain improves with treatment often depends on the behaviors of the person suffering. At the end of the article, I will offer you suggestions to try at home before and during treatment in order to improve your results.

Plantar fasciitis (say "PLAN-ter fash-ee-EYE-tus") is the most common cause of heel pain. The plantar fascia is the flat band of tissue(ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot. If you strain your plantar fascia, it gets weak, swollen, and irritated (inflamed). Then your heel or the bottom of your foot hurts when you stand or walk.

Plantar fasciitis is common in middle-aged people. It also occurs in younger people who are on their feet a lot, like athletes or soldiers. It can happen in one foot or both feet.

Plantar fasciitis is caused by straining the ligament that supports your arch. Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament. These can lead to pain and swelling. This is more likely to happen if:

  • Your feet roll inward too much when you walk (excessive pronation
  • You have high arches or flat feet.
  • You walk, stand, or run for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces.
  • You are overweight.
  • You wear shoes that don't fit well or are worn out.
  • You have tight calf muscles

Most people with plantar fasciitis have pain when they take their first steps after they get out of bed or sit for a long time. You may have less stiffness and pain after you take a few steps, but your foot may hurt more as the day goes on. It may hurt the most when you climb stairs or after you stand for a long time.

No single treatment works best for everyone with plantar fasciitis. But there are many things you can try to help your foot get better:

  • Give your feet a rest. Cut back on activities that make your foot hurt. Try not to walk or run on hard surfaces.
  • To reduce pain and swelling, try putting ice on your heel. Or take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), naproxen (such as Aleve), or aspirin.
  • Do calf stretches and towel stretches several times a day, especially when you first get up in the morning.
  • Get a new pair of shoes. Pick shoes with good arch support and a cushioned sole. Or try heel cups or shoe inserts (orthotics). Use them in both shoes, even if only one foot hurts.

This is all the first line of treatment, if the condition persists or returns it is best to see a podiatrist. Hopefully, these tips will help end your suffering and improve your overall health and well-being by allowing you to participate in exercise activities and having fun in the sun with the family.