If you've ever gotten out of bed in the morning and felt a stabbing pain in your heel with your first steps, you're familiar with plantar fasciitis. One of the most common causes of heel pain, plantar fasciitis occurs when the thick band of connective tissue on the bottom of your foot becomes inflamed. It's particularly common to runners, but anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet can develop plantar fasciitis. Read on to learn how to reduce heel inflammation and pain, improve mobility, and get back on your feet!
What is Plantar Fascitiis?
To understand plantar fasciitis, first we have to look at the plantar fascia. This is a thick, weblike ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot, absorbing impact and supporting your foot's arch. This band of muscle, stretched taut in the shape of a bowstring, can tear with too much use. After enough tension and stress these tears get inflamed, causing a stabbing pain that may be familiar to you.
Certain physical conditions and activities can put you at increased risk for plantar fasciitis. These include:
Age: People usually develop plantar fasciitis between the ages of 40 and 60.
Certain types of exercises or sports: Including long-distance running, aerobic dance, and ballet dancing. Any exercise or practice that places a great deal of stress on your heel and plantar fascia can contribute.
Certain occupations: Especially jobs that keep you on your feet for long hours, such as nursing, construction, factory work, and teaching.
Foot shape and mechanics: Uneven standing weight distribution on your foot can contribute, including flat feet, a high foot arch, or an unusual walking pattern.
Obesity: Additional weight can put extra stress on your heel.
Poor Quality Footwear: Wearing shoes without enough support can put unnecessary stress on the plantar fascia.
Why is Plantar Fasciitis Foot Pain Worse in Winter?
Many people with plantar fasciitis find that their condition worsens in the winter, with constant aching in their heels and severe pain as soon as they step out of bed in the morning. There are a number of reasons this might be the case:
- Temperature changes: Cold weather can exacerbate chronic pain, stiffness, and inflammation. When it gets cold outside, your joint tissue begins to contract, becoming tighter, stiffer, and pulling on nerve endings.
- Footwear choices: Heavy, tight boots can put additional pressure on your feet.
- Increased exercise: Many people make exercise and weight loss part of their New Year's resolution. Especially for those getting back into physical activity, the additional stress on the foot can cause pain.
- Weight gain: Weight gain from reduced activity is common in winter, and the additional pressure can lead to aching heels. It doesn't take much--an additional pound of weight can add 4 pounds of pressure across your ankle and feet!
How Can You Reduce Plantar Fasciitis Foot Pain?
There are a number of minor lifestyle changes you can make to reduce or prevent your heel and foot pain from plantar fasciitis. A small change can make a big difference!
- Proper footwear: Wear wide shoes and boots with strong arch support and a good heel cushion. Boots should be warm, but light enough that they don't put pressure on your feet -- don't be afraid to donate or repair old boots that are too tight or not supportive enough!
- Custom orthotics: Shoe and boot inserts for added support are available, including ones made specially for people with plantar fasciitis.
- Regular movement: Winter makes it easy to slow down. Make sure you're taking regular breaks from work to get up, move, and gently stretch your heels and calf muscles. Consult with your doctor about low-impact exercise you can do in winter, especially reasonable foot and leg stretches
- Foot massages
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