Are you tired of waking up with pain in your foot before your day even starts? Or struggling to find comfortable footwear that doesn’t make it feel like you’re standing on knives? Plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition that plagues millions of people; but it doesn’t have to.
We’ll take you step-by-step through the best ways to avoid plantar fasciitis, sharing insights on risk factors, sneaker choices, and lifestyle choices that can help you prevent months of pain. Ready to finally say goodbye to your foot pain? Let’s break it down.
A Quick Guide to Plantar Fasciitis
Foot Anatomy & Physiology
The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that connects your heel to your toes, helping to form the arch of your foot. It plays a vital role in nearly all of your daily movements like walking, standing, running, and jumping. For example, when walking or running, the plantar fascia absorbs nearly all of the tension & stress of your body. It helps absorb the ground impact and propels you forward & upward.
Even while sitting or standing, the plantar fascia is active, helping your foot retain its arch and ensuring that your body weight doesn’t damage the structural integrity of your musculoskeletal system.
Causes & Risk Factors of Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is an all too common condition, affecting roughly 1 in 10 people. It’s caused by repetitive strain and/or excessive loading of the plantar fascia – people who engage in long-distance running, plyometrics, and other high-impact activities are especially prone to the foot condition. Similarly, people who are on their feet all day, like hairdressers, baristas, first responders, and retail workers, are also at greater risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
In the case of high-impact motions, individuals place significant stress on the heel and connective tissue as they explode off the ground. And though you may not be involved in high-intensity exercise, prolonged standing or walking on hard surfaces can also trigger plantar fasciitis.
These aren’t the only known risk factors, however. Plantar fasciitis can also be caused by:
Aging – The plantar fascia will naturally lose its elasticity over time, as with many of your other bodily tissues.
Foot Mechanics – Things like flat feet, high arches, or irregular gait can also negatively impact health, as your weight is unevenly distributed throughout your entire foot.
- Weight – Obesity & excess weight gain place increased pressure on the foot, which strain the tissue.
How to Avoid Plantar Fasciitis
Wear Comfortable, Supportive Footwear
It should come as no surprise that the most important key to preventing plantar fasciitis is your footwear. If you consistently wear shoes that fit properly, offer ample arch support, and provide stability as you navigate your day, your chances of developing plantar fasciitis drop significantly.
Shoes that are too small or too narrow place unnecessary stress on the plantar fascia and other parts of your foot, cramming your bones, muscles, and tendons together. But choosing one size up isn’t the best solution either – the insoles won’t healthily align with your arch and you’ll likely experience instability.
Arch support is critical, especially for those with flat feet or high arches. The support distributes body weight evenly across the foot and limits the stress on the plantar fascia. Cushioning is another important aspect to consider when shopping for a new pair of shoes. Whether walking, running, jumping, or simply standing, your foot health depends on heel and forefoot cushioning, as these parts absorb most of the impact as your foot strikes the ground. The right shoes won’t last forever, though, make sure to replace your worn out shoes after 3-6 months depending on your level of physical activity.
If you plan to run or jump in your new pair of shoes, make sure you choose a pair that has plenty of support & cushioning for your foot shape. Sandals are just as important – check out our guide on the best sandals for plantar fasciitis.
Stretch & Strengthen Your Foot & Lower Leg Muscle
Choosing comfortable footwear is the first step to avoiding plantar fasciitis. The second is building a strong foot & lower leg foundation with stretching and strength training exercises. The combination of these two will reduce the strain on your plantar fascia by strengthening the muscles & tendons that surround it. As a result, the band of tissue will experience less pain & inflammation.
Let’s start with stretching exercises. The Achilles tendon is located just above the heel and plays an equally important role in walking, running, and jumping. By increasing the flexibility of this tendon and reducing the amount of tension in your calf muscles, you can reduce the pressure in your plantar fascia. Rather than all of the pressure being centered on the bottom of your foot, it will be evenly distributed across your entire lower body.
To stretch the Achilles tendon, stand arm’s length from a wall, placing one foot behind the other. While keeping your back heel on the ground, lean forward towards the wall until you feel a stretch in the back leg's calf and heel. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Repeat this stretch two to three times per day.
Stretching will alleviate some of the pain and pressure, but if you’re committed to avoiding a plantar fasciitis diagnosis, you’ll need to strengthen your calf & foot muscles. Try exercises like towel curls, calf raises, and even something as simple as walking in the sand! All of these will strengthen the muscles in your feet and provide added stability & support.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle
As with many physiological conditions, you can prevent plantar fasciitis by living a healthy, active lifestyle. The most important factor is healthy weight – excess weight places extra pressure on your feet, specifically your plantar fascia while standing or moving. The added stress drastically increases your risk of pain & inflammation.
But that doesn’t mean you should constantly stand or walk around. Constant stress without proper recovery will cause the muscles & tissue to fatigue, which will surely result in fasciitis. If you’re adamant about working out, supplement your regular training schedule with low-impact activities like swimming, cycling, and yoga. If you’re already dealing with plantar fasciitis, these are great activities to stay active too!
How to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis from Returning
If you were able to kick plantar fasciitis once, congratulations! But just to make sure it doesn’t come back with a vengeance, check out these tips.
Maintain Consistent Foot Care Practices
Health is an ongoing endeavor; foot health is no different. Even as your plantar fasciitis symptoms decrease from wearing supportive sneakers, stretching & strengthening your feet, and living a healthy lifestyle, you need to continue implementing these habits. Once the rehabilitation phase ends, these practices will help prevent plantar fasciitis from occurring a second time.
Continue to stretch and strengthen your lower leg muscles daily, and wear sneakers with arch support as often as possible, even in your own home.
If you notice any symptoms returning, like pain in the heel or arch, be sure to minimize the stress on the plantar fascia and seek medical advice as soon as possible. If you’ve ever gotten out of bed in the morning and find it painful to walk, this could be an early sign – make sure to limit your stress & impact until you receive a concrete diagnosis.
Get Regular Medical Check-Ups
Many people choose to self-diagnose their plantar fasciitis, which can be dangerous. Regular check-ups allow healthcare professionals to assess your condition and provide rehabilitative guidance. With an accurate look at your symptoms & MRIs, they can determine the best path forward. If you don’t visit a doctor when you think you have plantar fasciitis, but in fact you have another condition, you may actually cause more harm than good.
Follow Nutrition Guidelines
We’ve talked about how important a healthy weight & lifestyle is to preventing plantar fasciitis, but what does proper nutrition look like? Add anti-inflammatory foods like berries, fatty fish, and leafy greens to reduce localized inflammation in your foot. Make sure to drink plenty of water to hydrate your muscles, which are 70-80% water – without water, they’ll be tight & weak. If you’re aware of any deficiencies, consider supplementing with magnesium and Vitamin D, which help relax your muscles and strengthen bones, respectively.
You can avoid plantar fasciitis by taking proactive steps to maintain and even improve your foot health. By wearing supportive footwear, eating healthy meals, stretching & strengthening your feet & lower leg muscles, and routinely visiting your doctor, you can all but eliminate your chances of a diagnosis. You can prevent plantar fasciitis from developing for the first time or recurring with just a few easy steps, all you need to do is take the first step!
Trojian T, Tucker AK. Plantar Fasciitis. Am Fam Physician. 2019 Jun 15;99(12):744-750. PMID: 31194492. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31194492/
Wahid, Abdul & Sajid, Muhammad Arsalan Ali & Muzaffar, Ambreen & Hussain, Muhammad. (2021). Frequency of plantar fasciitis due to improper shoes among different universities students. World Journal of Advanced Research and Reviews. 12. 454-464. 10.30574/wjarr.2021.12.1.0512. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/355781506_Frequency_of
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