Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023 |
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I wanted to attend your “Walk & Talk” last Sunday but, oh, my aching feet. I’m always standing at work and walk over 20,000 steps a day. I “relax” by running on the beach! It’s probably no surprise that I’ve recently developed plantar fasciitis on one foot, and it’s not going away. What’s a gal to do?
— Akina C. from Lihu‘e
Aloha Mrs. C.,
“Happy Days are Here Again” should be the tune playing in your head today. I’ve got some good news for you. By taking a single proactive step, you should hopefully soon be pain free, leaping into heaping thanksgivings by Thanksgiving.
While there are cornucopia of possible solutions for da feet, and the agony thereof, I am optimistic that my footloose and fancy-free advice will afford you the most probable resolution before the new year.
As you may be aware, the plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue on the bottom of the foot, running heel to toe, providing structure, support, stability and shock suppression while stepping and striding. Although “-itis” is medical lingo for “inflammation,” plantar fasci-itis is often characterized by overstretched and aggravated fascia with little swelling. Regardless, the pain in the arch of the foot and heel can be constant and chronic.
Feet are a fascinatingly complex creation, with over 50 bones, and even more muscles, facilitating hiking and biking and dancing and prancing and skipping and flipping. Hurting “only” one foot is a good thing, at least in my book, and it doesn’t matter if it’s your right foot or your wrong one.
Experiencing the agony of da feet, plurally and equally, might suggest a structural and systemic situation. Since yours sounds like an isolated, isolateral incident, I’m confident that your road to recovery will be as swift as it is straightforward.
Ready for some chicken soup for the sole? Let’s take stock of the only ingredient on the menu today — stretching. But, it’s probably not what you think. I do not want you to stretch your already overstretched fascia; that’s a recipe for disaster.
Plantar fasciitis (or aponeurosis) is the fascia being overstretched and under stress. Whether from acute foot issues or ugly foot injuries, these tender tissues are strained and sprained and worn and torn. So, what should you do when your dogs are really barking? Twist and shout and do the Hokey Pokey karaoke? Absolutely not. You need to let sleeping dogs lie. Seriously, Akina, since your injury is quite recent, it’s time to rest those puppies.
Don’t run for your life. Don’t jump for your joy. Don’t skip to my Lou. Take a load off and kick your feet up.
After kickin’ it for a while, your foot might actually feel worse initially. Perhaps you are already mourning the mornings? Think about why. When you sleep, your feet relax and they point like a “plantar-flexed” ballerina. Heavy blankets in colder climates make this even worse.
During the night, the plantar fascia will naturally shorten and tighten. For those of us without injury, inflammation, or irritation, this nighttime “contracture” is no big deal. For you, my friend, it might feel like a nightmare, because each valiant first step of every victorious new day retears and reinjures your recently “contractured” fascia and fibers. How can they heal if they keep getting hurt?
This is precisely the reason why people struggle with plantar fasciitis for years or forever. Reinjured injuries are almost always greater (in a bad way) than the initial trauma. If bearing the weight of your early morning routine brings you severe discomfort, you are most likely tearing up your tissues (while tearing up, with tissues). Pain is a great indicator. Please avoid it.
As counter-intuitive as it seems, stretching and elongating the fascia is the culprit, not the cure. The immediate solution to plantar fasciitis is preventing the fascia’s “contracture” each night, so that it doesn’t get re-ripped to shreds every morning.
Wearing a “plantar fasciitis night splint” while you sleep, without fail, is the fastest fix in the world. Additionally, please be extremely diligent in warming up your feet and fascia before they touch the floor each morning with soft, slow and steady steps.
Without diagnosing or prescribing, I do have links on my website showing what I would wear if I were in your shoes. Please also watch a few of my videos to see that I’ve worn many a moccasin. I feel your pain, Akina, and I still have tremendous hope for your health.
Doug Jones earned his Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Maryland and has served professionals and personalities as a concierge fitness trainer for decades. As a resident of Kaua‘i and Connecticut, he has helped millions of people learn the secrets of fitness and fat loss, both online and in person. To submit your questions, or for more information, call (808) 652-6453 or visit www.DougJonesFitness.com.
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