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.
Jenna Francisco (@thismyhappiness)
Thanks so much for posting about this! I have plantar fasciitis in the ball of one of my feet (got it 8 years ago when I was pregnant with my older son), and it makes being on my feet so uncomfortable. I have to wear certain shoes now (Birks have been my fave this season), but I will try the stretches you recommend.
Thank you, Jenna. I too have to be very selective about my shoes. Stretching helps me a lot, and there are many good stretches and strengthening exercises to choose from. Good luck!
Thank you for such a valuable post. I had never given this any thought till my husband got a terrible case of it on our list trip. We had a particularly long walking day in Istanbul and his feet hurt him so badly the whole trip. We always wear very supportive shoes – usually low hiking shoes and inserts like super feet so we were really surprised when we got home and saw the pediatrist and found out this was the problem.
The ice in the water bottle is brilliant! Thanks for sharing! We are ALL over that now!! If you would like to do a guest post on this topic for my website http://www.theeducationaltourist.com please let me know. This is valuable!!
Thank you so much! It sounds like you’re doing all the right things, and I’m glad I could offer one more. Hopefully, your husband’s plantar fasciitis improves before long. Thank you for the guest post offer. I’ve got a lot going on right now, but will certainly consider it.
Great tips! I have had plantar fasciitis for the last year or so as well and it’s very inconvenient when travelling. I saw a chiropodist last year and he treated my foot with laser (or magnetic) therapy and it worked quite well for awhile but I feel like it’s starting to come back and I need some follow up treatment. I’m going to try that frozen water bottle – hadn’t heard of that one before!
How difficult this would be. So much travel involves being on your feet. Glad to share these tips.
I’m dealing with a tear in my plantar fascia right now and the doctor recommending a certain taping method called a Low Dye Strap. You have to use zonas tape (it doesn’t stretch) but it’s super easy to do on yourself and has helped me out immensely.
Thanks for the tip!
I’m not a big runner but ever since I started running and hearing about people getting plantar fasciitis I’ve been worried about that happening to me. I’m sorry you have to deal with this but thanks for the tips on how to still stay active.
Ouch! Sounds painful and a PITA.
Yikes. Glad that you are able to manage it OK!
I have had plantar fasciitis and it suuuucks! Flat shoes actually seem to work best for me. Shoes with a high arch support (even though the shoe stores tell me I have high arches) are what led to my bout of pf.
No fun to get this but good to have tips!
i roll a baseball or tennis ball under my arch, which helps to stretch it and relieve the PF. Yoga helps to stretch the calves and achilles tendon. And I am much more comfortable in shoe where my heels are higher than my toes by an inch or so. A lot of sport sandals are very flat and walking a lot in Merrells killed my heels — to my surprise.
The tennis ball and yoga are something I would try, and they are portable. Finding the right shoes seems to be a different experience for everyone. Thanks for sharing your tips!
Very help full tips! for the person who is suffering from plantar fasciitis and need to travel and walk a long way.
Thanks for sharing helpful hints! For the individual who is experiencing plantar fasciitis and requirements to travel and walk far.
Nice post thanks for sharing