Foot Pain - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Many athletes, be it weekend warriors, morning boot-campers or even pros, experience heel or foot pain. A common diagnosis is plantar fasciitis, a strain or irritation to the connective tissue (plantar fascia) on the bottom of the foot.  The pain can be sharp and sudden or dull and achy and can begin when you take your first steps in the morning, or after standing for several hours. The good news is no matter how much pain you have, or when it occurs, you can fix it.
 
How did it happen?
Running doesn’t cause plantar fasciitis. Neither does walking, jumping or any other physical activity. Being active on a foot that is out of position does cause plantar fasciitis. So if the physical activity hurts, don’t blame the activity or the shoes you wear. Instead, check the position of your feet.  They will indicate whether there’s a muscle imbalance that runs from your feet all the way up to your hips. This imbalance is easy to see, and easy to fix.
 
Self Diagnosis
The plantar fascia is designed to support the arches of the feet and help absorb the forces of impact. This series of self diagnosis will help you get in touch with your body and allow you to see the imbalance and determine if the fascia is under too much stress.

Stand barefoot in front of a mirror.
•    Notice the position of your feet and the weight distribution between each foot.
•    If one or both of your feet turn out, or you feel uneven weight distribution between your feet then you have a muscular imbalance. This imbalance doesn’t just affect your foot, but it also affects every joint above it.

Ideally, your feet should be pointed straight ahead with your weight evenly distributed and in roughly the middle of both feet. Any deviation from this and the arch and fascia of your foot will become overstressed. Add running, extra weight or standing for long periods and the arch or fascia will begin to break down. The resulting pain is your body’s message to fix it before further damage is done.  
 
The Fix
These three exercises will begin to restore the motion, position and function of your feet and will help realign your shoulders, hips knees and ankles. Do these exercises daily, especially before and after you run or work out.
 
1) Supine Foot Circles
Clasp your hands behind one knee and keep the other leg straight. Circle the lifted foot in both directions 40 times. Make sure the knee stays absolutely still so the movement is coming from only the ankle.  Next, bring the toes back toward the shin to flex and reverse the direction to point the foot forward for 40 reps.  
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2) Assisted Runner’s Stretch

Place your hands on a chair with one foot in front of the other. Separate your feet as far apart as possible while keeping both heels on the ground and your feet in line. Bend over and roll your hips forward to put an arch in your back. Tighten your thighs and relax your upper body, but make sure the weight is on the inside of each foot.  You should feel a stretch in the calf of the back leg and in the hamstring of the leg in front. Hold for one minute, switch sides and repeat.     
 
   
 
3) Downward Dog

Start with your hands underneath your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.  Pike up until you form an inverted “V” position while keeping your thighs tight, arms and elbows straight, and your heels up off the ground.  Pull your hips up and back as far as they can go and drop your heels for a comfortable stretch in the back of the calf.  Hold this position for 1 minute.

When you’re done with the exercises check your weight distribution and foot position again. You should feel more balanced and more evenly loaded between your feet. This means you’ve taken one step closer to being pain-free!

        

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