Plantar FasciitisJULY 2023
Welcome to HIGHWAY TO HEALTH, a new POSSESSED department where we pick a running injury or complaint, then consult with this weird guy we met at the bar who says he used to be a physio—then we write it up here. We’re going kick off our first HIGHWAY TO HEALTH with one of the more common and deceptively difficult to pronounce afflictions: plantar fasciitis.
No two ways about it, plantar fasciitis is a bitch. You’ll know you have it when you get up in the morning and it feels like a goblin has been banging goblin nails into your heels with a little goblin hammer. It’s the worst. It sucks. Here’s why it happens.
Photography & Video: Ben Murphy
There’s a band of tissue in the sole of your foot that connects your toes to your heel. This is called the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is there to support the arch of your foot and to act as a shock absorber each time you place weight on it. Without your plantar fascia, your feet would be as useless as a sombrero made of chocolate, so thank goodness for your plantar fascia and the brilliant machine that is the human body. Wait, did we say, brilliant machine? We meant to say, pretty frickin’ flawed machine that is the human body. Let’s get into that real quick.
Seven million years ago, the first upright hominids appeared on the scene. These were basically big monkeys who decided to stand up and walk around on two feet. Some monkeys didn’t want to stand up and were quite content to continue scrabbling around on their hands. Those monkeys were idiots, and they left the gene pool forever. Our monkey ancestors, however, were brilliant trailblazers. They stood, they ran, and they did it all seven million years ago. That number again: SEVEN MILLION. Now, you’d think the human body would have figured out a way to grow a decent set of feet in that time. Nope. They’re defective. And like all the other poorly designed and cheaply fabricated parts of the human anatomy, they break. Nice one, God. Back to plantar fasciitis.
‘If you’re just suffering with plantar because God hates you, you can eat Ibuprofen till it goes away (not recommended), ice the area (recommended), or you can stretch.’
Plantar fasciitis varies from case to case. For some, it’s experienced as mild pain in the heel that lasts for a few minutes after waking each day. For others, the pain is excruciating and can require corticosteroid injections and shockwave therapy. In some rare cases, the pain is so off-the-charts intense that amputation and incineration of the dismembered foot is the best course of action. But what causes plantar fasciitis? There are several causes, but the reason you have it, dear reader, is because you run and the human body is stupid. Other contributors: flat feet, high arches, weight, and age. Sadly, plantar fasciitis heralds the approach of midlife, so if you’re suffering from it in your twenties, your forties are going to be a goblin party.
So, what can you do? The surgeon general recommends resting up, but we both know that’s not going to happen, so what else can you do? Well, if your arches suck or you have flat feet, you can get orthotic inserts, but if you’re just suffering with plantar because God hates you, you can eat Ibuprofen till it goes away (not recommended), ice the area (recommended), or you can stretch. Stretching is the best option because it will ease the pain and prevent recurrence. Here are some stretches the alcoholic ex-physio shared with us seconds before being eighty-sixed for singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ after being repeatedly asked not to sing ‘Sweet Caroline’.
‘No two ways about it, plantar fasciitis is a bitch. You’ll know you have it when you get up in the morning and it feels like a goblin has been banging goblin nails into your heels with a little goblin hammer. It’s the worst.’
The Classic Calf Stretch
With your palms flat on a wall at about shoulder height, put one foot behind the other and gingerly bend your front knee while keeping your back knee straight, then lean forward. You should feel this stretch through the back leg, mainly in the calf. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds on each leg, and do it, like, three times per leg.
Seated Plantar Fascia Stretch
Park your ass on a chair and put your foot over your knee, then take your stinky foot in your hands and gently, slowly, carefully pull your toes up and back to stretch the underside of your foot. Fold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on both feet three times.
Seated Towel Curls
Park that sweet ass of yours back on the chair and lay a towel flat on the floor in front of your feet, then begin scrunching and releasing your toes to grab the towel and reel it in towards you like the cheeky monkey that you are. This exercise strengthens your feet so you can do crazy shit with them without developing plantar fasciitis. There’s a similar exercise where you pick up marbles with your toes and drop them in a bucket, but where the hell do you buy marbles these days? Get serious.
You see that chair over there? Park your sweet, ever-lovin’ ass in it and extend a foot out in front of you. Now make ten clockwise circles with that foot, turning at the ankle. Then do ten counter-clockwise circles with it, then change feet and do it again. Repeat three times on each side while watching a running documentary with tons of drone shots and dudes waxing lyrical about running.
See your doctor immediately if it hurts to do any of these exercises. Don’t worry, surgery for plantar fasciitis is super rare, and despite what you might have read about amputation, that’s probably not going to happen to you. It might! But probably not.