So you wake up and take a few steps and, bam, shooting pain in your heel. You did some online research, think you have plantar fasciitis, and now you’re looking to fix it. What follows below are a couple easy, quick, and cheap methods to get rid of your plantar fasciitis in a week or less.
There is no trick. Do these things, do them all, and the pain goes away. It did for me, it will for you.
[Update – I originally wrote this post in 2018. At the time I hadn’t fully vetted all these strategies. See my notes in brackets below. The following 3 things are mandatory:
- 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick insoles – get them for all your shoes you wear outside
- House Shoes – preferably foam Crocs. Wear these inside at all times
- You must always have on house shoes inside or shoes with super thick insoles outside. Break this and all hope is lost.
Stretches and night splints help but are annoying and not as needed]
Let me remind you I’m not a doctor nor do I play on on the internet. These techniques worked for me and are shared for informational purposes only.
That said, let’s get rid of that heel pain shall we?
1. Do morning stretches before getting out of bed [Optional – Nice at first but these get annoying after 2 weeks]
The number one rule of curing plantar fasciitis quickly is not injure yourself. The easiest way to do this is to do morning stretches before you get out of bed followed by immediately putting on house shoes or special supported slippers.
It’s the first 10 steps of the day that could re-injure your plantar fasciitis, cause inflammation of the plantar fascia, and basically continue the pain forever more.
These are the stretches you should do every morning before getting out of bed and putting pressure on your foot:
- Ankle Rotation
- Toe Bend
- Ball massage
- Calf stretch with band
The first thing that you should do is ankle rotations. Hang your legs over the side of the bed and rotate both your feet clockwise then counterclockwise. You can also grab your feet individually and rotate them by hand. You can add a bit more pull rotating by hand and get a better rotation.
My dog, Ella, likes to help out with this. She runs under my feet and seeks morning pets by my feet as I do the rotations.
The next stretch you want to do is the toe bend. Rest your foot on your opposite leg then grab your toes and pull them back. Pull enough that you feel it in your calves a bit. Hold this for 10 to 20 seconds. Don’t pull so hard that you feel pain.
While bending the toes back you’ll notice that the plantar fascia rises out and tightens up a bit. This is good. Use that position to gently massage the plantar fascia where it connects with the heel bone. Massage it also where it connects with the ball of your foot. Lastly massage the middle of the plantar fascia.
Repeat the above toe bend and plantar fascia massage for the other foot and you’re done.
The last stretch you want to do is to use a tennis ball or other soft ball to massage the bottom of your foot. The first position is to gently stand on a tennis ball and put slight pressure at different areas along the bottom of your foot.
Go slow and super gentle. At first you might feel some pain here and if you put too much pressure you’ll feel a ton of pain. As you practice this it’ll get easier and easier until you can put your full body weight on the ball.
Next rub your foot back and forth on the ball following the length of your foot. When I do this I usually feel some of the tiny bones in my foot crack. Again, go easy. If you’ve never done this it can be pretty intense but in time you’ll get used to it and you can add more and more pressure.
There are other moves you can pick up but these two basic moves will do most of the work for you – Direct ball pressure at different points on the bottom of the foot followed by rolling pressure following the length of the foot.
Calf stretch and massage
The final optional stretch is to stretch your calves using a towel then massage them with either a calf roller or your hands. You can do this while sitting up in bed.
Always do this after the ball massage as the ball massage loosens up muscles and tendons in your foot making it easier to stretch your calves. Start with the calf stretch and after you’ve stretched both calves go ahead and massage each one.
Feel for tight spots and work them gently. Go gentle as you haven’t warmed up yet and the calves are easy to overstretch. Again, this one is optional.
The next part is key. Before you take any steps in the morning you need to put on house shoes or slippers. Remember, rule #1 is cause no new injury. It’s those first 10 steps of the day that reinjure the plantar fascia.
This is especially true since many people take those first steps on tile or hardwood floors barefoot. You need to keep your house shoes/slippers right next to the bed and immediately put them on after your stretches.
[Update, Update – I added some Amazon products. If you click the link or picture I may get a commission at no cost to you. Buy them locally or however you get them but get insoles and house shoes somehow!!!!]
2. Get a pair of house shoes [Mandatory – Do not skip this. Suck it up and buy some Crocs]
House shoes are comfortable shoes you wear all the time indoors. They provide support and cushioning while your plantar fascia heals itself. Tennis shoes work great but most don’t feel comfortable wearing them.
Crocs or similar work great. I have a pair of generic Elega Sport generic crocs from Mexico that I wear all the time inside. Slippers work fine if they have a solid rubber or cork sole, arch support, and enough cushioning in the heel area.
Again, those first 10 steps of the day are the ones that reinjure the plantar fascia. House shoes or slippers aren’t an option, they are essential to properly healing your plantar fascia.
Crocs or the generic versions made of similar foam have thick very comfortable pads on the bottom, they’re easy to clean if you go outside, and they have decent traction on tile, hardwood, and carpet. They don’t provide a lot of ankle support so if balance is an issue you might want to go with tennis shoes or slippers that you can tie.
3. Get super thick (¼” – 1/2″) insoles for your outdoor/work shoes [Mandatory]
The last thing that you’re going to need in your one week plantar fasciitis pain relief kit is good insoles. You could go out and purchase good shoes with great insoles but in my experience it’s hard to find good shoes that work just for you. You’ll end up spending a lot of money before you get the right thing.
The other option is to just get good generic insoles and use them in your existing shoes. You get to keep the shoes you know you already like and you get the support you need to stop the pain and start the healing.
What’s the secret to finding them? Search Amazon for 1/4″ Thick Insoles or 1/2″ Height Increase Insoles.
That’s right! There’s a whole category of insoles built to make you 1/2″ taller. Who knew they also crush plantar fasciitis pain! [Hint – I knew!]
Don’t get store bought insoles! Most are way too thin even if advertised for plantar fasciitis or heel pain. Start with simple, silicone heel pads that are at least ¼” thick.
If you can’t see that in the Amazon description don’t buy them! Silicone is great because it provides instant pain relief and it’s easier to find silicone pads that are a ¼” thick than other standard insoles.
[2020 Note – I started to hate silicone pads. They get chewed up in your shoes super fast and get disgusting. Instead look for insoles that are 1/4″ thick and have some kind of fabric cover layer. That cover layer will make them last longer.]
Heel pads won’t help you if you have high arches. You’ll need something better. Just remember the rule of thumb with insoles – they must be at least ¼” thick at the heel.
Don’t get heel cups that wrap high around the heel. They tend to twist around in the shoe and get bunched up as you walk. Ideally find a silicone insole where the heel area is ¼” thick and the insole fits the entire length of the shoe.
You’ll need to trim it a bit with scissors to make it fit your exact shoe but trust me, full length insoles are best. They don’t need to be glued down, they don’t twist as you walk, and they help support the entire foot.
Take it from a person with duck feet – get a silicone insert that’s ¼” thick and fits the full length of the shoe. Ultimate comfort, no twisting.
Do you walk a lot? If so, great! Longevity awaits you. If not or even if you only walk a bit you’ll appreciate the full length insoles and their lack of twisting. The other major issue that occurs with silicone inserts is they tend to wear down faster than typical inserts.
If you can find silicone inserts that have fabric tops all the better. The fabric will reduce friction, help cool the feet, and they’ll last long.
- Get Insoles [mandatory]
- They have to be ¼” thick at the heel
- They should fit the entire shoe so they don’t twist
- They should have a fabric top for heavy walkers
Don’t worry if you can’t find ones with a fabric top. In another post I’ll talk about insole hacking and how to make great inserts cheap, including added different types of fabric. For now, just get the inserts. You won’t be disappointed.
4. Night Splints (Optional)
Like to hike? If you do, like me, you’ll know that plantar pain goes through the roof the day after a good 6-10 mile hike. Insoles, as discussed above, in your hiking boots will go a long way to helping with this.
But what happens when insoles don’t help? You might need a night splint.
I left this section optional. Why? Most people find night splints horrendous to sleep in. Personally, I’m in the middle on it. It’s awkward, yes, but the pain relief is unbeatable. There’s nothing like having a big hike, feeling tons of pain the next morning, putting on your night splint that night, then next day it’s as if the hike never happened.
If you have a night splint in advance you can just use it after each big hike or after a long day of field work, whatever brings on the most pain.
Night splints work because they keep your plantar fascia gently stretched all night. That prevents it from tightening up. The pain happens when you stretch that tight plantar and cause new microtears and injuries. Don’t do that. Get a night splint.
Remember, it’s those first 10 steps of the day that reinjure the plantar fascia.
What kind of night splint should you get?
The one you can sleep in.
There are soft splints, hard splints, as well as compression socks and other such unmentionables not even deserving of an honorable mention to this list.
Go with the hard splint if you can. It does the best job of immobilizing the foot which will speed up healing the fastest and get you back on your feet so you can sleep again without it.
Remember, night splints are to be used temporarily. You’re not trying to find a permanent solution here you can sleep in.
If the hard splint doesn’t work go soft. Anything to immobilize the foot. Just remember you want something that keeps the foot from bending down. An ankle brace won’t work. I tried it. You sleep great. You wake up with pain.
When can I start exercising again?
- Start with no strain exercises mentioned previously
- ⅓ of duration and intensity for impact exercises
- Only add in 1-2 impact exercises a week. Avoid them completely if at all possible
Many of you, like me, got introduced to the world of plantar fasciitis through a running injury. You probably run alot and you want to get back to it. You will. But for now, take it easy.
For the first week no more running. Just light impact exercise like walking.
Week two you can start to bring back 1-2 impact exercises (i.e. running, pole vaulting) a week.
Each week, if desired, add another day of impact exercises. If the pain returns, dial down the schedule a bit.
No one wants to stop walking and running because of plantar fasciitis. You won’t and really can’t stop exercising.
You’ll need to take a break for a bit but if you wait too long the muscles and tendons in your foot will get weak and exercise will damage them. You do want to bring back in exercise, just take it slow and increase the rate slowly.
Keep it consistent. If you bring back exercise and there’s no increase in pain keep with it. Changing exercise patterns drastically is what will bring the pain back and prolong the healing.