Treating Plantar Fasciitis: Specialized Physical Therapy in Denver
By Kim O’Hare, MSPT

Plantar fasciitis is a common foot injury often associated with running. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the band of tissue, or plantar fascia, which runs along the arch of the foot. It can come on gradually or all of a sudden.

Common symptoms include pain/burning in the heel or arch. In the early stages you may feel pain at the start of a run which subsides after a few minutes. But with increased mileage the pain usually returns. Because the symptoms begin intermittently, runners often ignore them. However, as the problem gets worse, severe pain in the heel when you step out of bed in the morning is common. This happens because during the night, the feet are generally pointed downward due to your sleep position or blankets pressing on the feet. This puts the plantar fascia in a shortened or contracted position all night. Subsequently, when you get out of bed, tiny tears occur in the fascia as it is stretched by the weight of your body. Once the foot limbers up, the pain usually subsides. However, it may return again by the end of the day.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you can take several measures to prevent plantar fasciitis from getting worse.

First, assess your running shoes. If you run less than 20 miles per week, a new pair of shoes is recommended every six months or 500 miles. For those running more than 20 miles per week, it’s best to trade in your shoes every three to four months or 300 miles, or when you start to notice your foot bottoming out in your shoe as you run. Depending on your foot type, custom or semi-custom orthotics can help to extend the life of your shoes. You can also buy running shoes tailored for the overly pronated or supinated foot.

First, choose a running-shoe store that employs staff qualified to evaluate your foot type, and walking and running pattern. You want to make sure you're in the right type of shoe.

Second, regularly stretch your calf muscles and Achilles tendon. This can be done effectively by placing your feet in a stride stance and leaning forward while keeping your back heel on the ground. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat with the back knee bent slightly. If you have foot pain upon arising in the morning, stretch your calf muscles in bed by placing a belt or towel around the ball of your foot and pulling back until you feel a stretch. Hold 20-30 seconds.

Third, work on loosening the plantar fascia by rolling the arch of your foot on a bottle, rolling pin or tennis ball. Apply as much pressure as your pain tolerance allows. Do this several times a day.

Finally, ice the arch of your foot or your heel to decrease inflammation. You can ice for 10-15 minutes at a time, several times a day as needed.

If these procedures fail to alleviate plantar fasciitis pain, it’s time to see your physician or physical therapist for further recommendations and treatment.