A simple way to relieve plantar fasciitis foot pain

Quick strength-training exercise helps

Published: January 09, 2015 01:45 PM

Q: My plantar fasciitis really hurts. Is there anything I can do to find some relief?

A: The plantar fascia is a thick swath of connective tissue covering the bones on the bottom of your foot. When it is strained, overstretched, or irritated (culprits include flat feet, poor arch support, distance running, weight gain, and a sudden increase in activity), the resulting foot pain—usually centered in the heel or arch—can be excruciating.

But a recent study from Aalborg University in Denmark found that a simple strength-training exercise provides more relief than traditional stretching: Stand barefoot with your sore foot on a step, a box or even a thick book, with a rolled-up towel placed under your toes and your heel hanging over the step’s back edge. Lift your other leg off the floor, bent slightly at the knee. Slowly raise your sore heel, count 3 seconds, pause for 2, then lower for 3 seconds. Do three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions every other day.

In the Danish study, volunteers who performed the above exercise experienced much greater relief from plantar fasciitis pain compared with others who followed a regimen in which they stretched their toes toward their shin by gently pulling on the toes.

One other thing to keep in mind with plantar fasciitis is that despite the “itis” in its name, there is no consensus among researchers that the condition is actually due to inflammation of the plantar fascia. It may be caused by deterioration of the tissue as a result of small tears that don’t heal properly. Thus, you very well may not find pain relief from taking anti-inflammatory meds, or even cortisone injections, to tamp down inflammation that isn’t there. Your best first option to stop the pain is rest and the strength-training exercise above.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the January 2015 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

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