Plantar fasciitis is the worst. Inflammation and small micro-tears in the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot can cause sharp, stabbing pain the moment you step out of bed in the morning. Often brought on by the stresses of training, plantar fasciitis can not only sideline your running, but also make everyday activities a pain. Luckily there are several options for combating the injury that don’t involve wearing sneakers with expensive orthotics 24/7.
A recent study out of the University of Queensland in Australia found that supportive, biomechanical sandals were just as effective as traditional orthotics. Other research published just last year in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences suggests compression sleeves and socks may have the potential to help address plantar fasciitis as well.
Dr. Stephen Pribut, Washington, D.C.-based podiatrist and sports medicine and biomechanics expert, says that the main goal of all products targeting plantar fasciitis should be to reduce the amount of bending at the heel and arch to help give your plantar fascia a break so it can heal. That’s what supportive sandals do, and what compression sleeves and socks may also help with.
Of course, some of the best things an athlete can do to alleviate plantar fasciitis pain are free. Pribut often prescribes athletes toe curls with a towel—curling up the towel for 20 seconds per foot—as well as gentle calf stretches done one to two times per day when your muscles are warmed up. For many athletes, combining these exercises with compression gear and supportive footwear may turn out to be the ultimate three-step attack plan to address plantar fasciitis as soon as it starts.
“A foot is never treated in isolation—it is attached to a leg, a body, and a person and all aspects play a role in getting better,” explains Pribut. “It does seem that getting better involves more than just changing your running shoes; the rest of the day plays a significant role in healing.”