If you have foot and heel pain, you may be suffering from plantar fasciitis. This condition affects the plantar fascia, that thick band of tissue that courses from your heel to your five toes. The plantar fascia helps to support the natural arch of your foot, and it helps to provide a spring in your step by gently stretching and springing with every step you take.
When your plantar fascia becomes inflamed and sore, you may feel pain in your heel or the arch of your foot. This pain can make simple functional tasks like walking and running nearly impossible.
If you have plantar fasciitis, you may benefit from physical therapy to help decrease your pain and improve your overall mobility. Your physical therapist may use various modalities like iontophoresis or ultrasound to help treat your condition, although sufficient evidence is not available to indicate that these are effective treatments for plantar fasciitis.1 Your PT can also assess your condition to determine the best course of action to help address you biomechanical faults that may be causing your pain.
Education about your condition is one of the most important components of physical therapy for plantar fasciitis. Your physical therapist should be able to tell you what to do (and why you are doing it) to help treat your plantar fasciitis. Take a look at this list of things to do if you have plantar fasciitis, and apply some of the principles to your own situation. Remember, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any treatment or self-care regimen to get an accurate diagnosis and to be sure it is safe for your specific condition.
One of the most important things you can do if you have plantar fasciitis is to rest your foot. You simply must find ways to relieve stress and strain from your plantar fascia.
Historically, the R.I.C.E. method of treating acute musculoskeletal injuries has been used. This is an acronym for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
In recent years, a different and more proactive acronym to treat acute plantar fasciitis is the P.O.L.I.C.E method. This is an acronym for protection, optimal loading, ice, compression, and elevation.
The protection phase of healing is still first and foremost, and this requires that you rest your foot for a short time before starting any exercises.1 This protection phase of injury management usually lasts from three to five days. Your physical therapist can help you during this phase of rest to help decide when it is time to start optimal loading, which involves gentle stretching and strengthening of the supporting musculature of your foot and ankle.
When you have plantar fasciitis, gentle stretching of your plantar fascia and muscles around your foot and ankle help improve your mobility and can help promote optimal healing.2
The plantar fascia wall stretch is a simple way to gently elongate your plantar fascia. Using a towel to stretch your calf muscles may also help to improve flexibility and mobility to the muscles around your foot and ankle.
Strengthen Muscles that Support Your Foot
Sometimes, weakness of muscles that support your foot and ankle may contribute to your plantar fasciitis. Strengthening and muscles like your calf, anterior tibialis muscles, or posterior tibialis muscles may be beneficial for you.3
The toe towel grab is also a simple way to contract the muscles in your foot to help support your foot's natural arch. This involves using your toes to pick up a tissue or small towel.
Be sure to check in with your physical therapist to see which strengthening exercises are right for you.
Try Ice bottle Massages
Use an ice bottle to treat plantar fasciitis.
Brett Sears, PT, 2014
During the acute and early phases of managing plantar fasciitis, you may benefit from using ice to help control the inflammation and pain associated with your condition.2
An ice bottle massage is a simple and effective method to provide ice to your foot while you gently massage your plantar fascia. Simply freeze a bottle of water, and then slowly roll it underneath your foot for 10 minutes.
Use Orthotics or Shoe Inserts to Support Your Arch
Photo of a foot orthotic to arch support.
Changes in the arch of your foot may contribute to the heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis. Your physical therapist can help determine if your arch has fallen or if it is abnormally high and if this is contributing to your pain.
Shoe inserts or orthotics can help to support the arch of your foot to help take pressure off your plantar fascia as it is healing from injury.1 The orthotics can support your foot and help keep it in a neutral position while walking and running.
Custom molded shoe inserts may be necessary to help treat your condition, but these can be costly. A simple, low-cost solution is to try off-the-shelf shoe inserts first that support your foot's medial arch. These may provide the necessary support and relief for your plantar fascia.
Try Kinesiology Taping
Kinesiology tape can be used to treat plantar fasciitis.
Brett Sears, PT, 2014
Kinesiology taping may be another method to use to help treat your plantar fasciitis by supporting your foot's natural arch while providing neural stimulation to your foot and ankle.4
Kinesiology is a cotton tape that is flexible. This can help provide support to your foot while still allowing your foot and ankle to move properly. The tape is also thought to gently lift the skin of your foot and ankle, which may help improve circulation to the injured area and promote healing.
Be sure to check in with your physical therapist before applying kinesiology tape to learn the proper techniques and to ensure that it is safe for you to use.
Wear Appropriate Shoes
If you have plantar fasciitis, you must wear appropriate shoes. High heels may look nice, but while you are caring for your painful condition, opt for more sensible shoes that support your foot.
Many people do not wear shoes in their house, but walking barefoot may be painful (or impossible) if you have plantar fasciitis. Wearing supportive shoes at all times is essential to taking pressure off your plantar fascia and allowing your foot to heal.
If you have foot and heel pain from plantar fasciitis, you should take action to help decrease your pain and improve your mobility. This may involve resting, using ice, and performing simple exercises to stretch and strengthen your foot and ankle.
Sometimes persistent plantar fasciitis may require more invasive treatments such as cortisone injections or, as a last resort, surgery.1 If your condition is rapidly worsening lasts for more than a few months, you should check in with your doctor to ensure that you are doing everything you can to treat your problem.
A Word from Verywell
Plantar fasciitis can be a problem that limits your ability to get around without foot pain. If you have foot pain, your PT can help offer suggestions for proper treatment. By learning simple self-care strategies, you may be able to successfully treat your plantar fasciitis and quickly and safely return to your previous level of function and mobility.