What’s your favorite part of getting up out of bed in the morning? The start of a new day? The sunrise? A fresh cup of your favorite coffee? How about the feeling that you’re standing on broken glass as soon as your feet hit the floor?
That stabbing pain is a symptom of plantar fasciitis, and if you’re like 8% of the general population, you’ve got it too. This condition involves pain, small tears, and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, the plantar fascia, which runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. You may have developed it due to being between the age of 40 and 60 (when it is most common), performing exercises that stress the feet, rolling your feet inward too much when you walk, being obese, or working while on your feet constantly.
The worst part about this heel pain? It seems like it takes FOREVER to get rid of. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy, night splints, orthotics, steroid shots, shock wave therapy, or (as a last resort) surgery. He’ll also give you a number of home therapy methods to perform until all your symptoms have subsided. These may include RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and plantar (base of the foot) stretches.
Recent research shows that, in addition to the use of orthotics, RICE, and stretching, strength training can assist in reducing heel pain. A proper exercise regimen can increase function quickly and may actually make your pain go away faster. Talk to your doctor and see if it’s safe for you to perform the following exercise.
1) Find an elevated surface that will hold your weight yet allow your heel to dip off the back. An elevated doorway or thick book will do. Roll up a small
hand towel or cloth and place it underneath the toes of the affected foot.
2) Stand only on the affected foot. Raise your heel off the ground slowly enough that it takes three full seconds.
3) Stay in that position for two full seconds. Then, slowly enough that it takes three seconds, lower your heel down off the back of the elevated surface.
4) Repeat that for 12 repetitions and perform 3 total sets of those repetitions.
Within three months, you should have a significant reduction in the just-got-out-of-bed-and-I’m-walking-on-broken-glass feeling and hopefully an increase in enjoyment of new days, sunrises, and fresh cups of coffee.