The coming of summer typically brings with it a change in footwear. For many of us, that means sandals and flip flops, but be wary—it can often bring foot pain as well. Plantar fasciitis (plan-tar fash-ee-eye-tis) becomes a common diagnosis in the physical therapy clinic this time of year.

What is plantar fasciitis? Plantar refers to the bottom of the foot, “fasci “refers to the soft tissue or fascia, and “itis” means inflammation. So, plantar fasciitis is just a fancy way of saying that there is pain and inflammation in the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia is a structure that starts at the heel and webs out to the toes. It also has connections to the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel and to the calf muscle. Common signs and symptoms that you might have plantar fasciitis:

  • Pain in the heel or the bottom of the foot, mostly when standing or walking
  • The pain is less when sitting or lying down
  • The first few steps out of bed in the morning are usually the most painful
  • Tenderness along the arch of your foot
  • You recently changed your footwear
  • You recently increased your activity level

What can I do if I already have symptoms?

  • Stretch your foot: Cross your ankle over your opposite knee, pull the big toe back until you feel a stretch in the arch of your foot.
  • Stretch your calf: Stand in a lunge position with one foot in front of the other about a step’s width apart. Place your hands on a wall in front of you for support; bend the front knee to get a stretch in the calf of the opposite leg.
  • Roll a tennis ball or golf ball under your foot for 5 minutes.
  • Put ice on your foot to decrease pain and inflammation.
  • If these exercises are not helping or your pain is worsening, see your doctor and make an appointment with a physical therapist who can prescribe exercises tailored to your individual needs.

How can I prevent plantar fasciitis?

  • Always do a light warm up before any exercise
  • If you have not been exercising regularly, start slowly! Do not go out and walk a few miles if you’ve been relatively inactive. Start with just 10 or 15 minutes and build from there.
  • Make sure you always wear supportive footwear, whether it’s a walk for exercise or walking to do your grocery shopping. Flip-flops, open-backed sandals, high heels and clogs are NOT considered supportive footwear. These types of shoes are often the cause of foot pain!

Be smart about your foot health. Take these steps to help prevent and treat foot pain. The comfort and support of good shoes or sneakers outweighs fashion when it comes to having a healthy, active and pain-free summer.

For further information about foot pain or physical therapy call North Country Hospital Rehabilitation at 802-334-3260.

Rachel Wasilewski DPT, CYT is a physical therapist and certified yoga teacher. She is an outdoor enthusiast and marathoner who moved to VT in 2015 with her supportive husband and teenage daughter