Plantar Fasciitis: Footwear for the Summer Season. This Year’s Best Looks!
Could plantar fasciitis ruin your summer? We have all been there, done that and picked fashion over comfort in shoes repeatedly. Knowingly putting them on, whilst simultaneously thinking about the pain we will be in later. I know I definitely have, because I have the blisters and calluses to show for it. What with running and footwear faux pas I certainly have unattractive feet, but have you ever stopped to think of the long-term damage that wearing un-supportive footwear can do to your feet?
The reason I want to discuss this now is due to the summer season being upon us. The weather is warming up (sort of), the sun is out and shinning (erm, maybe 50% of the time) and the days are getting longer (yay, no more going home in the dark!) However, you know what we Brits are like, we can’t help seeing a single ray of sunshine without stripping all our clothes off – and our feet are no different. Our little toes have been cramped up for the past 8 months in boots and trainers and it’s finally time to let them free and flip flop about.
Have you ever stopped to think about how your feet may cope with the change? From suddenly being wrapped up all comfy in supported shoes to being forced to grip on and balance on a thin piece of plastic? It is this time of year I see a massive influx of patients suffering from plantar fasciitis. The main cause being from a sudden change to wearing pretty unsupportive footwear.
Plantar fascia is the thick connective tissue that runs on the underside of your foot from the heel along the sole and onto the base (ball) of your foot. Its main role is to support the arch of your foot and it also helps support the tendons that run along the sole of your foot. The plantar fascia helps to dissipate weight evenly during weight bearing.
Symptoms include sharp pain on the heel or along the arch of the foot. Typically, it generally occurs unilaterally, but in some unfortunate cases pain can be felt in both feet. It is normally worse first thing in the morning for those first few steps or after any periods of prolonged sitting, but can ease off after a bit of walking. In some cases swelling can be present.
Historically, plantar fasciitis was thought to be an inflammatory condition of the connective tissue, hence the presence of occasional swelling. However, more recent studies have shown that it is more likely to be due to a microscopic structural break down of the fascia. This is caused by micro tears due to repetitive trauma of the area. When the body tries to heal these micro traumas, it lays down new connective tissue called collagen. However, because the body is trying to be efficient and heal quickly, the collagen is laid down in a disorganised manner. This can cause the plantar fascia to tighten and, therefore, induce pain.
Plantar fasciitis is often caused by inappropriate, or a change in, footwear as stated before. Sometimes however, Plantar fasciitis can occur if your feet are more flat footed, if you have particularly high arches or if you keep rolling your feet into excessive pronation (foot rolls inwards). Subsequently, suddenly increasing weight bearing activities such as running or changing the surface in which you run on, e.g. going from treadmill to road running, can also initiate plantar fasciitis.
All of the above can be managed by wearing the appropriate supported footwear. Unfortunately, flip flops do not provide this support. Although they feel free and super comfy to wear, a thin piece of material held on the foot by two straps just doesn’t cut it. As there is no upper to the flip flop, your foot is not only not supported, but your toes actually end up gripping the sole to keep it attached to your foot most of the time. This causes the plantar fascia to contract and stay contracted. No wonder it can initiate some of these symptoms!
Now, I’m not the footwear devil, I wear flip flops plenty in the summer. However, just think about when and for how long you wear them for, especially if you think you may be doing some extended walking, because unfortunately if you do develop plantar fasciitis, it can very painful. You don’t want to condemn your feet to trainers for the rest of the summer just to be able to walk pain-free. It’s about choosing your battles!
The good news is plantar fasciitis can be treated. General advice would be to rest (from weight bearing exercise and excessive walking), ice and stretch the plantar fascia, Achilles and calf muscles. Also recommended would be to see a professional for some manual therapy on the effected tissue and advice on a rehabilitation exercise program.
If you think you are suffering from plantar fasciitis or would like any further information, please contact our sports rehabilitation therapist Em Manaton.