You just got up after a nap and now you can't walk. It's funny how life can change in an instant.
So what's happened?
Just like toddlers, your plantar fascia is irritated after a relaxing rest. When your weary foot hit the floor, it woke up stiff — and screamed.
For a lot of you, this is your first brutal intro to plantar fasciitis.
But here's a trade secret: Podiatrists breath a sigh of relief when you hobble into clinic with heel pain.
Why? Because plantar fasciitis is an easy condition to cure.
"Plantar Fasciitis So Bad, I Can't Walk!"
Plantar fasciitis comes on fast. It immobilizes.
I'd say it's the condition that freaks people out the most when they ring me.
(You can see swelling on the inside of the heel if it's extra aggravated)
It's also super common. I see ten painful heels compared to any bottom-of-foot pain.
Because plantar fasciitis is an equal opportunity heel-disabler. Everyone gets it, from 10k runners to 83-year old's.
(Some octogenarians still jog)
Why Podiatrists Love Heel Pain
No, we're not sadists who like to see you in agony. (Well, I'm not!)
It's because plantar fasciitis is an easy condition to cure. Compared to other foot issues, *cough achilles tendinitis*, heel pain is super simple to fix.
Not that you'd think it when you can't put your foot on the floor.
I get that.
But most cases don't need a clinic and you don't need to spend a lot of money.
Countless people have been in your level of discomfort and walked pain-free not long after.
Is it a Spur, is it a Plane? (No, it's Heel Pain)
Do some plantar fasciitis sufferers eventually need shockwave, steroid injections, plasma and even *gulp* surgery?
Yes, a small number.
Have you got some other panic 'n' pain inducing heel condition — like a bone spur?
It's unlikely, but possible.
The point I'm getting at is: the vast majority of heel pain (even when you can't walk) is good ol' fashioned plantar fasciitis.
Why Your Heel Hurts
Your plantar fascia keeps your entire foot structure together. If you curl your toes back, you can see it.
It's that tight band running along your foot like a ratchet strap.
The actual fascia tissue starts right at the back of your heel bone. When you walk, it spreads out to absorb shock.
Yeah, thats very interesting and all, but why's my heel hurting?
When your foot hits the ground, your heel lands first — and hardest.
It's strained and inflamed and why you can't walk.
The 3 Reasons You've Got Plantar Fasciitis
Ask any Podiatrist and they'll tell you: all plantar fasciitis cases can be traced back to the following causes...
1. Tight Calves and Short Legs
When your calves are inflexible, so are your ankles.
Lack of slack in your ankle forces your heel to absorb more of your weight.
This stress stays down, instead of soaked up.
While we're on legs, you'd be amazed how many people have one that's shorter than the other.
Well, guess what: the extra strain on the shorter side is enough to trigger plantar fasciitis.
When your foot hits the ground, it goes into shock absorb mode.
To adapt to the floor, all the bones in your foot dip low and loose. This is pronation.
Overpronation is when you spend too long with floppy feet.
This forces the fascia to stress and strain and is a (very) common cause of heels that burn.
3. Rampant in Runners
Heel pain is rampant in runners or those starting a new fitness regime.
It's also commonplace in those of you who work looong hours on your feet.
The reason: more movement = more strain. Your footwear isn't absorbing all the twist and torsion.
On the subject of shoes, summer sandals are common culprits (as are granite-soled safety boots).
Cure Plantar Fasciitis So Bad You Can't Walk
Ok, to get you walking again, we have to reduce the red flame in your heel and take strain off the fascia.
No matter how bad the pain, if you do these, it'll improve.
Then, when it (and you) are settled, we have to stop it from recurring.
And yes, you can do these easy treatments at home.
Frozen Water: The Super Heel Soother
Ice is hands down the best instant heel-pain reliever.
It's (almost) free and you can do it watching Netflix.
The biggest mistake is not using it enough. Ice, ice and ice your heels some more.
I like these flexi-freezer packs, so you can really wrap it around the inside heel and press it in
Apply it for 10-20 minutes minimum once a day. At the very least do it after hours on your feet.
Balls and Thumbs
Now, everyone's seen those spiky balls for rolling on your heel.
(Some like to use a water bottle, others a tennis ball)
The aim is to massage; to warm, to pump fresh healing blood into your heels.
It needs to feel as if a strong set of thumbs has gone to work there.
Keep one next to your bed (and sofa), and give it a roll before you get up.
No Thongs Allowed
Fun fact: In Australia, flip flops are called thongs. Here in the UK, they don't mean that.
Anyway, fresh footwear alone can cure plantar fasciitis.
Ditch the sandals and thongs and switch to heel-helping shoes. This means a bouncy-castle inner sole and a nice fat heel support.
(Hoka One's are the best)
Avoid barefoot walking as much as possible — even around the house.
Instead, wear a sandal with an arch like these.
Does everyone with heel pain so bad they can't walk need insoles? No.
Do they accelerate the back-to-walk process? In most cases, yes.
The truth is: few patients need expensive customized insoles.
What you're looking for is strong arch support and as rigid as you can handle. Like these.
This stops the twist and tear that's stopped you from walking.
Heel Pain Insurance
You need to stretch your tight leg and ankle muscles out. You need shock-absorber calves.
There's a ton of heel pain rehab exercises. In truth, it doesn't really matter which one you choose.
(As long as it targets the calves and Achilles).
The point is that you're performing them. Regularly.
I personally like seated calf-towel stretches. Do them at least once a day.
5k to Couch aka Rest
That charity run may have to wait. You may have to ask your boss for a trainers at work pass for while.
Avoid long walks or intense exercise for several weeks. Don't push it to the point of that morning ache again.
Women (Have Worse Feet Than Men)
Yep, and it's all down to those ballet-tight footwear.
Fashion is an integral part of your life. Society says so — like corsets.
But it's not only shoes and buying apparel online is a double-edged razor.
You can access stuff you'd never see down your McHigh Street for sweatshop prices.
Then it rocks up and looks (or fits) decidedly different from advertised.
If you've got Amazon Prime, use Try Before You Buy.
You can order six items (including shoes, kids and men's clothes) and cavort in front of a mirror trying them for 7 days. You only pay for what you decide to keep.
(Returns are free).
Plantar Fasciitis So Bad I Can't Walk
These treatments work even for those who wince on every step.
It's the advice you get in a clinic. It's the therapy I give to patients.
Now get icing!