Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

Of all the elements you need for self-curing plantar fasciitis, the two most important are footwear/orthotics and stretching. Which of those is MOST important? Stretching, say many doctors.

Certainly, orthotics are important, but ultimately if you don’t stretch, plantar fasciitis won’t go away and, if it has, it will come back. “The vast majority of folks where it doesn’t go away completely, they’re the ones that don’t stretch,” says Dr. W. Hodges Davis, Carolina Foot and Ankle Surgeon and 2012-2013 President of the Outreach and Education Fund of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.

Question: So why do so many people shoot themselves in the foot, so to speak, by not doing the specific stretches they need for as long as they need and as often as they need?

Answer: Because when reading how to do just ONE of the 3 or 4 stretches they need to do, they hear something like this (for the “Achilles tendon squat “ stretch):  “… lean forward onto a counter top, spreading your feet apart with one foot farther forward than the other. Flex your knees and squat down, keeping your heels on the ground as long as possible. Your heel cords and foot arches will stretch as the heels come up in the stretch. Hold for 10 seconds, relax and straighten up. Then try it with the OTHER foot farther forward than the other. Repeat 20 times.”

“Seriously?” you may be thinking. “Wait, 10 seconds, 20 times, with each foot? Like I have that kind of time?” You know what? 20 times is great, but like the other stretches, you’re still ahead if you do it less than the recommended number of times.

BETTER YET, as even the doctors recommend, you don’t have to find some great lump of time where you can do all the recommended repetitions of all the stretches, maybe turning on the TV so you won’t get bored out of your gourd. Instead, just do them throughout the day. When you’re near a counter-top, or maybe a railing by a loading dock — anything you can lean against. Or, for that great Stair-Drop Stretch (check the URL below), you’re always using stairs. I often pause on stairs, or stop by a set of stairs, just to take a few stair-drop stretches. Always feels good.

As Dr. Davis says, “I tell my patients I’d rather they stretch for 30 seconds six or seven times a day than one time for three minutes. I’d rather have people stretch all day.”

Like the “dorsiflexion” stretch on the plantarfasciitis-help Web site [link below], for example: It’s my favorite, one that seems to make the most difference in my own plantar fasciitis, but I do NOT sit on the edge of the bed, or on a chair, and crank the toes with my hand. In my case, there is a kitchen counter with a solid base, and whenever I sit there on a stool I slide off a shoe and put the toes against the counter base and press foot down until sole is on floor but toes are cranked firmly UP. Sitting there eating, reading the paper, watching the counter-top TV or chatting with the family, I can maintain this stretch for a long, long time, periodically releasing it for a rest, then pressing against the counter base again. My GOD is it good! Makes such a world of difference that I can feel when I stand up and start walking again.

Wherever you are, throughout the day and evening, you can always work in a stretch here, a repetition there. If you only do stretching when you have a big block of time for it … then it probably ain’t gonna happen. And neither will your PF recover

Stretching exercises might look like a hassle, if you judge from the words used to describe them in our Plantar Fasciitis Stretching Exercises page, but the movements/poses are pretty simple. Shame to miss them, and self-cure, by thinking you can’t enjoy the doing of them any time of the day and night. Every time you stop to do some, your foot feels better as soon as you’re finished. Feels SO good.

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