Though the nice summer weather often leads to increased activity (e.g., hiking, pick up games, etc.), it is often a time of more “leisurely” pursuits and people get away from their usual, structured exercise routines. With the start of the school year, the life of leisure gets left behind and people return to their routines such as school or organized league sports, or resuming a jogging program.
If you took the summer off and try to return at the level you remember in the spring, you may experience your fair share of soreness as muscles and joints react to unfamiliar stresses, or you may actually injure something that was ill-prepared for the new demands. This often occurs in the plantar fascia (arch) of the foot.
A cardinal sign of fasciitis is pain 1st thing upon putting your feet on the floor each morning, which improves after several steps or as the day goes on. The pain may then return by the end of the day after prolonged weight-bearing. To the touch, pain is felt at the middle to far end of the heel (toward the arch) and perhaps the arch itself but without any complaints of numbness or tingling.
There are several things to try on your own: ice the foot for 10 minutes at the end of each day. Use non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (if these are safe for you to use) such as Advil or Aleve. Buy a new pair of shoes if the ones you have been using are old. Buy shoes with more cushion if you seem sensitive immediately to weight-bearing; buy ones with stiff soles (difficult to twist in your hands) and slightly more arch (or an over-the-counter arch support) if you are mainly bothered with prolonged or frequent walking over the course of a day. You may especially benefit from an arch support if you are having to wear cleats, which are known for offering little to no arch support. Because cleats are narrow, most over-the-counter arch supports won’t fit but we sell a narrower orthotic that fits most cleats.
If these don’t resolve your issue, you likely need professional help. As physical therapists, we work to calm acutely inflamed tissue (“fasci-itis”) or stimulate the healing response in chronically degenerated tissue (“fasci-osis”) through modalities or soft-tissue mobilization, educate patients on ways to relieve stresses on the tissue (through rest or footwear recommendations), and address biomechanical inefficiencies (e.g., tight, weak, or stiff tissues; scar tissue).
By Tom Fontana, MSPT