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Everyone (well almost everyone), has two arches in their feet: a transverse and a longitudinal.  The longitudinal arch is the largest and most obvious arch which stretches from your heel to the ball of your foot.  The height of this arch is sometimes referred to as the instep.

This arch has to support a lot of weight throughout the day so it has to have some support.  It’s supported by muscles in the foot as well as tendons from the muscles in your leg.  The biggest support however, is by ligaments and connective tissue.  Your arches have a very thick and resilient piece of connective tissue that runs from the heel to the digits called the plantar fascia.  The plantar fascia holds the arch up and keeps your foot from collapsing when your feet are bearing weight (If you have flat feet your arch is low or collapsed).

You can think of the plantar fascia as sort of a spring that is stretched when your feet hit the ground to absorb force and conserve energy.  If you aren't wearing shoes I want you to reach down and pull up on your big toe while grabbing your arch with the other hand.  You should be able to feel your plantar fascia tighten up, just like it does while you're walking.  It's easy to see how this can undergo a little wear and tear.

Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammation of your plantar fascia that many feel in their arches or at their heel (where the plantar fascia attaches).  This is usually due to an increase in weight, activity, or overuse.  The pain arises with tiny micro tears that can cause the fascia to tighten up.  The tighter it gets the more prone it becomes to injury.  It can be a vicious cycle of progressing tightness and pain if not properly addressed. 

Often there are simple things you can do at home to keep plantar fasciitis at bay. 

  • Massage your arches a few times a day with your fingers.  Or, place a small ball (a golf ball works well) under your foot and roll it around on your arches.  This will work out the scar tissue and allow the tissue to expand. 
  • Tight calves can cause tight plantar fascia.  Do calve stretches and work on your flexibility.
  • Wear shoes with supportive arches that decrease the strain on your plantar fascia.
  • If you are still having trouble then try buying a device that will stretch out your fascia.  The Strassburg sock is a device that pulls up on your toes to stretch your plantar fascia while you sleep.  Many patients have had a lot of success with devices like this.
  • Severe plantar fasciitis can result in heel spurs and may require surgery, but surgery is always a last case scenario

If you want to learn more about your feet or you can't get rid of the pain in your archesmake an appointment with your local podiatrist at Affiliated Foot and Ankle Care located in Edison and Monroe NJ.

by Nrupa Shah

   

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