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Plantar Fasciitis: an illustrated explanation of why your foot hurts

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photo: who am i today

Plantar fasciitis is a very common form of foot pain and one that I find really interesting because it manifests in both really active runners and relatively sedentary people.  How can a person that is training for their third marathon develop the same pain as someone that doesn’t exercise much more than walking from their desk to their car?  You can’t purely blame it on over or under-use if the desk jockey and the super athlete are getting the same thing.  So what is causing the bottom of people’s feet to hurt so much and for so long?

The short answer: (a combination of the following factors)

  1. The shoes you wear all day (not just while running)
  2. Your posture & movement patterns (how you sit, stand, walk and breathe all day)
  3. A nerve irritation in your low back
  4. Weakness in your feet and tightness in your calves
  5. Fascial restrictions in your visceral system affecting the blood and nerve flow to your feet

The long answer:
It is typically a series of on-going events that leads to you developing that burning, pulling, aching pain on the bottom of your foot.  You may have one or all five of the above issues.  If your pain has lasted a long time, it is worth exploring all of them.  Read on for details…

1. The shoes you wear all day…

It is hard to talk about foot pain and not mention shoes.  I have written a number of articles on this blog already about feet.  If you are convinced that your shoes are the culprit please read these articles too:

All too often, plantar fasciitis gets blamed on a ‘lack of support’ and this bothers me. 

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Posted in Blog, Feet, Pain, Shoes Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
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How to strengthen your feet: advice and tools to get you started

You may go to the gym to strengthen your chest, back, legs or core, but what about your feet?  Your feet end up being held hostage in a stinky pair of shoes, unable to move or breathe all day and then you expect them to hold you up while you walk, run or play sports.  They are pretty durable, but will eventually begin to break down, hurt and even deform if you don’t give them a chance to work properly with the rest of your body.  Your feet are your body’s suspension; they act as both shock absorbers and rigid levers to help propel you when walking and running.  Losing awareness of your feet leads to poor movement patterns, poor posture and inevitably pain.

Imagine you have a job that requires you to wear tight leather socks on your hands all day.  Now imagine the palm side of the sock has a firm plank on it so you can’t flex your hand to properly grab anything, but you still have to use your hands all day.  What do you think would happen to your hands over time?  They would turn into deformed, weak clubs like most people’s feet end up looking like.  You would lose the dexterity in your fingers while your forearms, wrists and shoulders would get all tight from compensating all day; this is what effectively happens to most peoples toes, ankles and hips from wearing stiff shoes all day, but your feet have much more of an impact on your posture than your hands ever would.

Four facts about your feet that are hard to argue with:

  1. You were not born with shoes on…evolution designed your feet to function barefoot
  2. Your feet’s arches are designed to be held up by the muscular tension holding your foot bones together, not by external “arch supports” pushing them up from the bottom
  3. You likely wear shoes most of the time and walk mainly on very flat surfaces
  4. You are unlikely to stop wearing shoes, but would like to keep your feet warm, healthy, strong and protected

 

So you will probably agree that your feet would be happiest and strongest if you were barefoot all day walking around an uneven meadow, but practically that is not going to happen, so what do you do to keep your feet strong, living in reality? Read More

Posted in Blog, Feet, Shoes Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
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