By Gwen Lawrence
For athletes, plantar fasciitis is one of the most common sources of heel pain. The plantar fascia is a ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes. Strain to the fascia weakens it, causing pain and swelling in the heel. It is a problem that plagues regular exercisers as well as football players, tennis players, soccer players and basketball players every day.
- High arches or flat feet
- Working, running or standing on hard surfaces
- Being overweight
- Tight Achilles tendons
- Tight calves
- Weak inside edge of foot, causing roll-in (pronation)
Aside from rest and ice, you can take anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin (consult your doctor first) to help with an acute case. I take a standpoint of prevention. There are several defensive approaches.
First, it is important to do several stretches every day.
- Hero’s Pose, toes tucked: Kneel with your toes tucked under and sit back on your heels. If you have tight knees or injuries to the knees, roll up a towel behind the knees to keep from stretching the knee joint too much. This will open the plantar fascia under the toes and deep into the Achilles tendon, as well as the calf. Hold the pose for two minutes.
- Hero’s Pose, toes untucked: Kneel with your toes untucked this time, the same as above. Doing this variation of the pose will help to stretch the top of the foot creating balance in flexibility, as well as opening the muscles of the shin. Make sure your heels point straight up to the sky to protect the knees. Hold for two minutes.
- Downward-Facing Dog: Put your body in the shape of an upside down “V,” hands shoulder-width apart, fingers spread, hands flat, feet hip-width apart and parallel. Once you get a flat back, focus on sinking into each calf and holding the stretch for several breaths.
- Perfect lunge forward shift: In a lunge position with right knee forward in a 90-degree angle and left leg shooting back straight, make sure your left heel points straight up to the sky so you are on all five toes and are not putting strain on the knee. Keep your arms out to the side like you are walking a tightrope to help your balance. Push off the back toe, shifting your body forward (keep your front knee in a 90-degree angle) 20 times to stretch and strengthen the toes, foot, ankle, Achilles tendon and calf. Don’t give up. You will love it! Repeat on the other side.
A secret yoga technique I recommend to many of my professional players is Healthy Toes. It is a gel-like piece of equipment that you put between each of your toes to stretch the toes apart. It does not hurt and makes a huge difference. Sleep with these every night. Trust me, it works, and you have nothing to lose by trying. Shh! It’s a yogi secret.
These easy yoga moves and tips will help you prevent plantar fasciitis and keep you strong, flexible and powerful.