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. I've picked up a few tips for traveling with plantar fasciitis.
Most cases of plantar fasciitis are temporary, but mine is chronic. Travel often requires a lot of walking, so traveling with plantar fasciitis became a real challenge.
I've tried just about everything except surgery. 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 plantar fasciitis tips 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. A good pair of shoes will keep you on your feet all day, and help 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, but they are a good option. Dansko is one of my favorite brands. Birkenstock is back in style, and is a good option too. Good shoes are not usually cheap shoes, but they can last for years.
I have high arches, so shoes alone do not usually provide enough support. My podiatrist recommended high quality arch support inserts from a specialty shoe store. You get what you pay for. Buy one or two pair because you can move them from shoe to shoe.
I use PowerStep insoles, which are available on Amazon.com. They are moderately priced, and comfortable for me.
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. 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 cheap 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 helps reduce swelling and pain. I use it only occasionally, when stretching and ice are not enough.
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.
The family doctor who diagnosed my plantar fasciitis suggested I try 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.
One friend suggested a particular arch support that helped her. It was rigid and uncomfortable. 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.
After these failures, I decided to find a good podiatrist.
When to consult a doctor
You may want to consult a doctor if your plantar fasciitis does not improve after several weeks of consistent stretching, ice, ibuprofen and good shoes. 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). Physical therapy has given me the best long-term results. Cortisone only worked once, and only for a few days. The platelet (PRP) injections did 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 limit our travel plans again.