The 5 best treatments for plantar fasciitis are all things that can be done at home.
Maryke Louw

Maryke Louw

The 5 best plantar fasciitis treatments you can do at home

It just so happens that the most useful treatments for plantar fasciitis are all things you can do at home.

Table of content

Can plantar fasciitis be cured?

Yes, plantar fasciitis can fully recover if you apply the correct treatment strategies.

What happens if plantar fasciitis goes untreated?

It usually becomes progressively more painful and it may also increase your risk of tearing your plantar fascia. The longer you wait before you seek treatment, usually the longer it takes to recover.

Plantar Fasciitis recovery time

There is no quick fix for this condition. However, you can significantly shorten or lengthen your recovery through what you do.

If you decide to ignore your heel pain and just carry on running and walking as normal, then it can take 12 months or longer to resolve.

If you react quickly and apply the correct treatments (see below) within a few weeks of your pain starting, then it can fully recover within 8 to 12 week.

What is the best plantar fasciitis treatment?

A group of researchers from the UK, Denmark and Australia recently conducted a very thorough review of all the available research regarding treatment for plantar fasciitis. They then interviewed 14 expert clinicians as well as 40 people suffering with plantar fasciitis and combined all of those findings to identify the most useful treatment options for plantar fasciitis. The 5 treatment recommendations below are based on their findings.

You can find a full treatment plan for plantar fasciitis in the Exakt Health app – it’s free to download.

1. Load management

Load management is the single most important thing to get right if you want your plantar fasciitis to recover. Here’s what it is and how to do it.

What do I mean with load?

The plantar fascia’s main job is to stop your foot’s arch from flattening out when you place weight through it. So whenever you’re upright (standing, walking, running) you load your plantar fascia.

Once injured, your plantar fascia loses some of its strength and can no longer cope with the normal loads from your daily activities. So if you continue to stand for extended periods of time or walk/run as much as you like, you continuously strain the injured area and your injury will become progressively worse.

The plantar fascia runs from your heel bone to your toes and stops your arch from collapsing when you're upright. The Achilles tendon runs from your calf muscles and attaches into the back of your heel.

In order to allow your injury to settle and recover, you have to temporarily reduce the loads that you place through your feet. The best way to do this is through relative rest.

Relative rest is best

Relative rest means that you remain as active as possible and only reduce the truly aggravating activities. For example, you may have to reduce the volume/distance of running or walking you do in a day until your foot has recovered and you’ve been able to build some strength. If you usually stand and work, you may have to start sitting down more often.

Relative rest helps to maintain as much of your current strength as possible, without straining the tissue.

Complete rest is usually not needed

Complete rest is usually not needed and actually not useful. If you rest your foot completely and don’t use it at all for an extended period of time, it will actually lose more strength, causing it to strain more easily.

How to decide what you can do

Monitor how your foot responds to different activities. Sometimes an activity can feel fine while you’re doing it, but then it may make your foot hurt more later that day or the next morning. So it’s good to monitor the 24 hour pain response.

You can usually be confident that an activity is OK to do if:

  • You feel only a slight discomfort while doing the activity; and
  • It does not increase the pain you feel later that day or the next morning.

You should consider reducing or avoiding an activity if:

  • It causes a lot of discomfort while you’re doing it; or
  • It causes an increase in your pain that lasts for more than 24 hours.

Total daily load counts

Sometimes, it’s not a single activity that’s the problem but rather the total time that you’ve spent on your feet during a day (several short walks around town + standing and chatting to your friends + short walk with dog etc.). If you can’t pinpoint a specific activity, but your foot tends to be more painful and sore in the evenings, then you have to look at spreading your activities throughout the week so that they don’t accumulate.

Activities that can often aggravate plantar fasciitis include:

  • Standing for long periods
  • Walking long distances
  • Running

Activities that can maintain fitness and are better tolerated:

  • Walking shorter distances on soft ground
  • Pool running
  • Swimming
  • Cycling

2. Supportive shoes

When you have plantar fasciitis, it is really important not to walk around in bare feet or with unsupportive flat shoes (like flip-flops or converse). Choose a supportive shoe that can take some of the strain off your plantar fascia.

I know it can be annoying to have to wear shoes inside the house, but your plantar fascia requires that extra support to allow it to recover.

3. Taping

Taping techniques that support the arch of the foot (like the low dye taping technique) can help to reduce pain in the short term. It’s not a long term solution but if the tape helps, it may indicate that you would benefit from wearing arch support orthotics.

Taping your foot can help reduce the pain from plantar fasciitis. This demonstrates a kinesiology taping technique but low dye may work better.

4. Orthotics/insoles

There are 2 types of orthotics or insoles that may be useful for plantar fasciitis. Not everyone finds them useful but for some people they can bring instant relief. The reason for this is that no one’s injury is ever 100% the same and that our bodies are all shaped differently, muscle strength varies etc.

The only way to know if you will benefit from using an orthotic is to test it. If it allows you to do a bit more standing and walking with less pain, then it’s likely useful to use. If they feel uncomfortable and increase your pain, then they’re not the right thing for you.

Orthotics can be useful as part of the treatment for plantar fasciitis, but will not work for everyone.

Arch support orthotics

The main job of the plantar fascia is to stop your foot’s arch from collapsing when you’re standing, walking or running. These insoles are shaped in a way that they support the arch and in doing so act a bit like a ‘crutch’ for the plantar fascia, allowing it to rest and recover.

The research is currently a bit divided on whether you may benefit more from getting custom ones made or just buying some off-the-shelf prefabricated ones. In my experience, the prefab ones can often be quite high in the arch area so they don’t tend to be comfortable for my patients with flatter feet or lower arches. I would always get them to test these first because they usually don’t cost a lot, but I may advise that they get custom ones made if it’s clear that they are not a good fit.

Gel heel cups

Gel heel cups don’t provide any support for the arch, but they cushion the heel. We all have fat pads under our heel bones that cushion and protect our heels. Studies have shown that people with plantar fasciitis tend to have thinner heel fat pads in their injured feet. It is possible that some of the pain that you’re feeling is coming from the lack of cushioning in which case a gel heel cup will make a big difference.

5. Exercises

Stretches

Doing gentle stretches for the plantar fascia can often bring immediate pain relief. However, this is a short term solution and not a cure – it’s a bit like a plaster. It relieves the symptoms but does not address the cause of the injury.

To fully recover from plantar fasciitis and prevent it from coming back, you also have to strengthen the muscles that control your leg and support your foot’s arch.

Strength training

The obvious muscles to strengthen are the small intrinsic muscles in the foot as well as the ones that control the rolling in motion (pronation) of the foot because they will immediately reduce the strain on the plantar fascia. Tibialis anterior and tibialis posterior are the two main muscles that control pronation. The Exakt Health app is free to download and includes exercises for all of these muscles.

You should, however, also include strengthening exercises for your glutes and muscles that control your hips. When these muscles are weak, they allow your legs to turn in excessively when you walk or run and this can increase the force through the plantar fascia.

Once injured, the plantar fascia also loses some of its strength. You can rebuild this through a carefully graded loading program and the best exercises for this job are usually heel raises. However, this is not the first exercises to start with when your foot is still very painful. They should only be introduced once you can do them with minimal discomfort. We’ll discuss this in more detail in a future blog post.

The Exakt Health app contains a treatment plan for plantar fasciitis that starts with gentle, easy exercises and slowly increases the intensity as your heel pain decreases.

The heel raises exercise can help strengthen the plantar fascia as well as the calf muscles.

We understand. We’ve been there. Finding convenient and reliable help for injuries online can be a tedious and demoralising process. Here’s our story and why we started Exakt Health.

The Exakt Health App provides a convenient, intuitive and science-based injury rehab experience for runners. 

All treatment advice is based on trusted medical evidence and reviewed by licenced sports physiotherapists, with each rehabilitation plan tailored to your unique grade of injury and phase of healing.  Download the Exakt Health App and start your recovery now.

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