I had no idea how common plantar fasciitis is until I got it myself about four years ago. Plantar fasciitis is a foot condition where the plantar fascia (ligament in your arch) is damaged, then tightens and causes stabbing heel pain. Travel often requires a lot of walking, so traveling with plantar fasciitis became a real challenge.
Most cases of plantar fasciitis are temporary, but mine is chronic. I’ve tried just about everything except surgery, and with ongoing therapy (mostly at home) my plantar fasciitis has improved enough that I can once again plan an all-day theme park, national park, or big city adventure without worrying about whether my feet are up for it.
I am not a medical professional, but these are the common sense remedies that have worked for me.
Even if you don’t have foot problems now, everyone in your family should wear comfortable, supportive shoes when you travel. Not only will a good pair of shoes help keep you on your feet all day, but they may prevent plantar fasciitis and other foot problems. I rarely go barefoot – even around my house – because supportive and comfortable shoes help minimize my plantar fasciitis.
“Comfortable and supportive” does not have to mean athletic shoes, though they are a good option. Good shoes are often not cheap shoes, but they can last for years. Dansko is one of my favorite brands. Birkenstock is back in style, and is a good option too.
I have high arches, so sometimes shoes alone do not provide enough support. My podiatrist recommended that I choose good quality arch support inserts from a specialty shoe store. You only need one or two of these because you can move them from shoe to shoe.
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The Big 3
If you suspect plantar fasciitis, some of the best treatments are easy, inexpensive and portable:
Stretch several times each day to reduce plantar fasciitis pain. Flex your legs and feet before you get out of bed. Put both hands against a wall with one foot forward and one foot back to stretch your heel and calf muscles. Stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a stair and let your weight push your heels down. Sit on the edge of a low chair, tuck your heels back as far as you can and push down on your knees with your elbows. Bend over and touch your toes. Stretching your entire leg and doing exercises that strengthen your ankle and foot muscles help too.
Freeze a disposable water bottle and roll it under your foot for 15-30 minutes per day while you’re watching television, checking your email, etc. Or, take a reusable water bottle on your trip and fill it with ice from the hotel’s ice machine. It feels great and reduces swelling of the plantar fascia. Ibuprofen also helps reduce swelling and pain.
What didn’t work
I DO NOT recommend buying crazy contraptions via the internet. Different methods do work for different people, but there is a good chance that it will be a waste of money.
One friend suggested a particular type of arch support that helped her. It was rigid and came in three heights. The product claimed that my foot would adjust to the support, but in my opinion, a good shoe or support should feel good the first time you try it. These supports were too rigid and uncomfortable. This is when I decided to find a good podiatrist.
The first general practitioner I consulted recommended the Strassburg Sock, which holds the foot in a flexed position while you sleep, keeping the plantar fascia stretched. For me, it was uncomfortable, and did not help my plantar fasciitis at all. My podiatrist says that’s a common experience.
When to consult a doctor
If your plantar fasciitis is not significantly better after several weeks of consistent stretching, ice, ibuprofen and good shoes, you may want to consult a doctor. A good podiatrist can offer several additional treatments that may help. I’ve tried cortisone shots, Astym, physical therapy and injecting my own platelets into my foot (yes, I was desperate), and physical therapy was my favorite. Cortisone only worked once, and only for a few days. The platelet (PRP) injections did actually help, but I stretch daily to maintain the results.
Plantar fasciitis does not need to keep you from travel and favorite activities for long. I still feel it every day, but now it is more tightness than pain. I stretch often and use ice and ibuprofen as needed, so plantar fasciitis will hopefully never affect our travel plans again.
Do you have plantar fasciitis? If so, what works for you?
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