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  • Sarah Chapman

Are you flip flopping towards Plantar Fasciitis?

Most people have heard of plantar fasciitis even if they haven't experienced what can be a painful foot condition. Plantar fasciitis is quite common and as a physio we can tend to see more, or hear more people grumbling about it, over the summer months and in early Autumn.

Plantar fasciitis is pain around the bottom of the foot, heel and arch. It is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a strong band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. This strong band also supports the arch of the foot and contributes to managing the loading and shock of forces that move through your foot and ankle when walking or running.

There are different causes that can provoke plantar fascia pain and one of the most common causes we see is when people have been on holiday and worn flip flops. All. Day. Long. Or maybe we have a spell of warm, sunny weather in the UK and people start to walk around in flip flops and flat sandals that don't offer the foot any support or cushioning.

Plantar fasciitis commonly causes a sharp, stabbing pain and can be particularly worse with the first few steps in the morning. As you move around a little more the pain usually reduces a little but is likely to return after longer periods of walking or standing up again after time spent sitting.

A flip flop style of shoe doesn't support the arch of the foot or help the plantar fascia distribute the load associated with walking as there's little in the sole of a flip flop to offer cushioning. We are also likely to alter our gait walking in flip flops and that can change the way we load the structures in our foot, causing additional stress and strain.

If you're experiencing plantar fasciitis here's a few tips to managing the condition.

1. Wear better footwear and limit the amount of time you spend wearing flip flops or un-supportive sandals. Consider putting cushioned, gel heel pads in both shoes.

2. Avoid activities that you know aggravate your heel and foot pain for a while to let the plantar fascia settle down. You may have to cross-train if you run frequently.

3. If it is safe for you to take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or use a topical gel, such as Ibuprofen, this can normally help to ease the pain.

4. Ice and ice massage. Half fill a 500ml water bottle and place it in the freezer. When your foot is feeling very sore you can role the arch of the foot back-and-forth over the frozen water bottle to give yourself a gentle, cooling massage. You can do similar with a tennis ball.

5. Calf stretches. A standard gastroc and soleus calf stretch, you can add the hamstrings in here as well and there are a few ways to achieve this stretch.

6. Start to strengthen. There is evidence to suggest controlled loading of the plantar fascia and calf muscles using a form of heel raises can improve the plantar fascia’s ability to tolerate load. The intrinsic foot muscles can also be strengthened by doing towel scrunching exercises.

7. Weight management. If you are overweight or have recently gained weight consider whether you may benefit from some weight loss management.

If making some changes listed above and spending 1-2 weeks completing these exercises daily doesn't help your plantar fascia pain then you may want to consider seeing a physiotherapist. We can add taping techniques, acupuncture and look more closely at what individualised exercises may benefit you because there may be other reasons contributing to ongoing pain.

You can call our Physical Health clinic team on 01932 645320 to book an appointment or book online

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