Your plantar fasciitis is pretty sneaky. When you’re lying in bed each morning, your feet feel good. But then you take your first step of the day, and there’s that shooting pain again.
You know your plantar fasciitis symptoms will get better after you walk around for a bit. But will the pain come back after your morning jog or when you’ve been on your feet for a couple hours?
Having plantar fasciitis is a literal pain. But thankfully there are effective treatments for plantar fasciitis – many you can do at home. Read on to learn about how to relieve your pain and when to contact a podiatrist.
First things first: Does plantar fasciitis go away on its own?
Plantar fasciitis rarely requires surgery. In fact, most of the time plantar fasciitis will get better in three to 12 months. But the key is following a consistent care and treatment plan that helps your foot get better.
Self-care tips and plantar fasciitis home remedies
1. Take time to rest
Healing plantar fasciitis starts with giving your injured foot or feet a rest. Plantar fasciitis is caused by repetitive use and pressure on your plantar fascia ligament – which runs under your foot, connecting your heel to your toes.
Does this mean you need to sit around for a few months? Absolutely not. Movement is good. But you’ll want to avoid or modify activities that make your foot hurt or put extra pressure on your feet.
For example, rather than walking around barefoot at home, invest in a pair of supportive slippers or house shoes. Or if you’re a runner or avid walker, avoid running or walking on hard surfaces and use an elliptical machine that’s lower impact instead.
2. Ice your heels and arches
Along with rest, icing is one of the best treatments to relieve plantar fasciitis pain and promoting healing. That’s because icing constricts blood vessels, which can bring down swelling and inflammation-related pain.
You can apply a bag of ice or a cold pack wrapped in a towel to the bottom of your arch and heel. Or you can soak your feet in an ice bath.
If you’re using a bag of ice or a cold pack, ice your foot for 15 to 20 minutes a few times throughout the day. If you’re using an ice bath, limit sessions to 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
Is heat good for plantar fasciitis, too?
Heat therapy helps increase circulation and blood flow, which can reduce cramping and stiffness. Heat can also loosen up the plantar fascia ligament, which can make stretching and massage more effective.
But heat doesn’t numb pain and may cause more swelling. Using heat therapy on its own isn’t usually recommended for treating plantar fasciitis. However, it can be used in combination with icing and cold therapies – this is called contrast therapy.
To try contrast therapy, you’ll need two foot tubs – one filled with warm water and the other filled with ice water. Start by submerging your foot in the ice water for two minutes. Then place your foot in the warm water for 30 seconds. Continue alternating between the different temperature waters for around 15 minutes.
3. Use oral anti-inflammatory medications wisely
Taking an oral anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin or ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation for a few hours at a time. Chances are, you’ve taken one these medications before for aches and pains, but check with your doctor before you start taking a medication regularly. (You should avoid anti-inflammatory medication if you have a history of kidney disease, stomach ulcerations or allergies to anti-inflammatory medicine.)
4. Invest in quality, supportive shoes
Wearing good shoes is incredibly important for foot health. Shoes should be appropriate for whatever activity you’re doing. If you’re going for a walk, wear lace-up athletic shoes – not flip flops or sandals.
Shoes that fit well are the right size, shape and fit for your foot. Skip pointy-toed shoes and high heels. Instead, look for styles with broad toe boxes so your toes won’t rub together while you wear them. Shoes should also have soft soles for cushioning and arch supports that distribute pressure evenly across your foot.
For added heel support, look for shoes with a rigid heel counter, which is a small plastic insert that’s built into the back of some shoes to reinforce the heel cup. You can’t see the heel cup from the outside, so press down on the heel of the shoe to determine if it has a rigid heel counter. If you can flatten the heel down, it’s a non-rigid heel and won’t provide a lot of heel support. If you can’t push the heel flat, the shoe likely has good heel support and may be a good choice for you.
When trying on possible shoes, only consider ones that are immediately comfortable. You shouldn’t need to spend days, weeks or months “breaking in” your shoes – new shoes should feel supportive and comfortable right away.
5. Give your heels and arches extra support all day and all night long
Even if you have amazing shoes, you may still need a little extra support for your feet. Great options include:
Store-bought plantar fasciitis insoles and arch supports
If your shoes aren’t providing enough support in the right places, a good next step is over-the-counter shoe insoles, arch supports or heel cups. You can find all of these in the pharmacy section of many stores or online for about $20 or less.
These shoe inserts are generally molded pieces of rubber, leather, metal, plastic or other materials that you can easily slip into your shoes. Insoles can provide added cushion and arch support, taking some of the pressure off your plantar fascia.
If over-the-counter insoles aren’t enough, specialty shoe stores often sell their own inserts, which can be more effective. Plus, the best stores have a board-certified pedorthotist (a trained expert in orthotics and footwear) who can help you find the perfect fit.
Plantar fasciitis socks
Compression socks designed for people with plantar fasciitis may also help reduce inflammation and pain. How? Plantar fasciitis socks provide mild or moderate pressure on the heel and arch support, helping to improve blood flow.
Because you’re looking to support your foot and not your leg, you can probably get away with ankle socks rather than knee-high compression socks. There are also toeless socks, called compression sleeves, that can provide great support while running, walking or participating in sports.
Plantar fasciitis socks come in a variety of compression levels. In general, you’ll want higher compression for athletics and lighter compression for everyday wear. Compression socks range between $10 and $60 a pair. You can typically find compression socks for plantar fasciitis at shoe stores or through online retailers.
Athletic or kinesiology tape
Taping your foot can help stabilize and support your plantar fascia ligament and provide short-term pain relief. Depending on the kind of support you’re looking for, there are two different types of taping techniques.
The first type of taping is with athletic tape. Athletic tape has been used for decades to help support injured bones, joints and muscles, and has been proven to help with plantar fasciitis pain when used correctly.
While athletic tape can provide more support, it is also rigid and can restrict mobility if it isn’t applied correctly. Generally, athletic tape may be more useful when you’re doing everyday activities.
The other taping approach uses kinesiology tape, which is a stretchy type of athletic tape that provides some support without limiting movement. If you watch competitive sports, you’ve probably seen colorful strips of kinesiology tape placed on different body parts.
Kinesiology tape may be a good option when you’re exercising or participating in sports. But again, you’ll need to make sure you know how to apply it correctly.
Plantar fasciitis splints for nighttime
A night splint is a brace that holds the foot in place, with the toes pointed up in a position that gently stretches the planta fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles during the night.
This brace can be an effective way to avoid the terrible morning pain that often comes with plantar fasciitis. But wearing it can take some getting used to, and you’ll need to wear it consistently to see results.
Plantar fasciitis night splints typically run between $20 and $40. There are many options available online and through mass retailers.
6. Start doing plantar fasciitis stretches and exercises
Plantar fasciitis stretches are one of the best exercises you can do to manage your foot pain, especially in the morning and after activities. To get the most benefit from stretching, do plantar fasciitis exercises multiple times every day. Here are a few stretches to try.
This exercise stretches the fascia and Achilles tendon and can prevent morning foot pain. So consider sleeping with a towel near your bed. Here’s how it works:
- Sit with your legs extended and knees straight.
- Place a towel around your foot just under the toes.
- Hold the two ends of the towels, one in each hand, above your knees.
- Pull back with the towel so that your foot stretches toward you.
- Hold the position for at least 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat the stretch two to four times.
- Repeat up to five times a day.
Frozen water bottle rolling
Rolling a ball, water bottle or foam roller under the arch of your foot can relieve plantar fasciitis pain. Using a frozen water bottle is an especially great option because it provides ice therapy while you stretch your foot. Here’s what to do:
- Place the frozen water bottle on the floor.
- Position your foot so that the curve of the bottle is in between the ball of your foot and your heel.
- Using as much force as comfortable, roll the bottle underneath your foot.
- Continue rolling for about five minutes.
- Repeat up to three times per day.
Tightness in your calf muscle and Achilles tendon can lead to plantar fasciitis pain. This exercise stretches your lower leg and the Achilles tendon. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at about eye level.
- Place the leg you want to stretch about one step behind your other leg.
- Keeping your back heel on the floor, bend your front knee until you feel a stretch in the back leg.
- Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat the stretch two to four times.
- Repeat three or four times a day, at least five days a week.
This exercise provides a long stretch from the tips of your toes through the calf muscle. Because you can do this stretch while seated, it’s a good one to do while on the phone or watching television. Here’s what to do:
- Sit in a chair and extend your leg so that your heel is on the floor.
- Reach down and pull your big toe up and back, lifting your ankle off the floor.
- Hold the stretch about 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat the stretch two to four times.
- Repeat several times a day.
This exercise flexes both the plantar fascia and calf muscle. The goal of the stair stretch is to improve flexibility and reduce heal pain. These are the steps:
- Stand on the bottom step as if you’re planning on walking up the stairs.
- Hold onto the railing and move your feet back so that only your toes and the balls of your feet are on the stairs.
- Slowly let your heels down over the edge of the step as you relax your calf muscles. You should feel a gentle stretch across the bottom of your foot and up the back of your leg to your knee.
- Hold the stretch about 15 to 30 seconds, then tighten your calf muscle a little to bring your heel back up to the level of the step.
- Repeat two to four times each day.
7. Massage your feet
Massage can be a great way to reduce or prevent heel pain. And if you massage your feet before you get out of bed, you may be able to reduce morning heel pain.
If you’re looking to relieve foot pain after exercise or a day on your feet, it can help to apply heat first. A bath, shower or foot soak in warm water can loosen up the tissues.
Feel free to use a little moisturizer or oil. Then, using moderate to firm pressure, massage each foot for about two minutes along the full length of the arch from heel to toes. After that, massage the entire width of the arch.
Make good use of your thumbs during the process. For example, push your thumbs into the bottom of your foot along the length of your sole from toes to heel. You can also use your thumbs to reduce muscle tightness by pushing them into the center of your arch and then pulling them toward the outside of the foot.
After massaging your feet, ice them for about 15 minutes.
8. Switch to lower-impact sports and fitness routines
The truth is that no one gets plantar fasciitis from sitting around. So when people get plantar fasciitis, a question at the top of the list is often, “How am I going to get my exercise in?”
Fortunately, there are many low-impact options to get cardio and strength training without making your foot pain worse. Here are some top picks:
- Yoga helps you avoid high-impact movements and places an emphasis on stretching.
- Biking helps you get cardio with plantar fasciitis – just make sure to protect your feet by wearing hard-soled shoes.
- Swimming is an incredibly low-impact exercise that’s easy on your feet.
- Strength training allows you to target specific muscle groups and avoid the areas of your body that hurt.
- Rowing is an exercise that involves nearly every part of your body, but it puts almost no stress on your feet.
When a podiatrist can help with plantar fasciitis pain
If you’re still experiencing foot pain, even after a couple of months of self-care treatments, it’s time to see a podiatrist – a doctor who specializes in foot and ankle conditions. Most podiatrists spend time treating patients in a clinic setting and are also foot surgeons.
Custom orthotics to provide more arch support
At some point, those store-bought insoles, arch supports or heel cups may not do the trick anymore – and that’s where custom orthotics can be a big step up. That’s because custom orthotics are made especially for your feet, which means they can provide the unique support you need.
When prescribed by a podiatrist, custom orthotics are often covered (at least in part) by many insurances. Just check your insurance plan so you know what’s covered.
If you’re paying out of pocket, they can start around $200 or more. However, custom orthotics last far longer than over-the-counter options – usually one to two years – so they’ll be worth the investment.
Cortisone is a steroid that can provide longer-term pain relief for plantar fasciitis, making it easier for you to do everyday activities.
Cortisone injections are most effective when they’re placed in or as close as possible to the pain source, and can take a day or two to take effect. But once the steroid is working, most people will feel relief for several months.
Physical therapists help people heal and get moving again. They can teach you how to stretch and exercise your feet the right way, so when you’re doing stretches on your own, you’ll be more effective. And that can mean better pain relief and faster healing.
Plantar fasciitis surgery
In more serious plantar fasciitis cases, surgery can be an option if conservative treatments have lost their effectiveness. But surgery is rare – it’s used in less than 5% of diagnosed cases.
During plantar fascia surgery, your foot surgeon will detach your fascia from your heel bone in order to relieve the tension in the ligament. They may also remove scarred or inflamed tissue.
It takes about four to 12 months to recover from surgery. During the healing process, the surrounding tissue experiences new growth, which may increase the length of your fascia. The surgery is generally effective, but there is a chance that your symptoms will linger or return.
Give your feet the support they need
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. If shooting heel pain is preventing you from living the active life you want, it’s time to take action.
Start by investing in the right shoes, icing regularly and stretching throughout the day. But if nothing seems to work, make an appointment with a podiatrist. They can help get you back on your feet again.