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Don’t let foot pain slow you down

​​​​​​​​​Nothing ruins an evening stroll down a neighborhood sidewalk or a relaxing run on a wooded trail faster than a sharp pain on the bottom of your foot.

couple walkingPlantar fasciitis causes swelling, redness, and pain in the tough, fibrous band of tissue that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of foot pain in adults that Amy Jaeger, D.P.M., Marshfield Clinic Wisconsin Rapids and Marshfield Centers, sees on a daily basis.

"You can't ignore the pain. It won't go away on its own and must be treated," Dr. Jaeger said.

Plantar fasciitis can be caused by any number of things, including wearing shoes with poor arch supports, sudden weight gain or obesity, flat feet or high arches, tight calf muscles or Achilles tendon, or an increase in the amount of walking or running.

The good news is that it can be treated and healed easily in most cases.

"I'd estimate about 90 percent of my patients with plantar fasciitis have the pain go away with conservative treatment," Dr. Jaeger said.

Dr. Jaeger says she sees the bulk of her plantar fasciitis cases in spring, summer and fall when central Wisconsin residents spend more time outside. The pain often starts out mild and increases to a sharp, stabbing sensation most commonly felt after you take the first steps in the morning or after a prolonged period of rest. 

How can this be fixed? At first, cut back on the exercise, both in duration and intensity, until the pain lessens. Rest and elevate your feet. Apply ice packs to the painful area for 15 to 20 minutes, three or four times a day.

The biggest culprit that causes plantar fasciitis are worn out shoes or shoes with poor arch support, Dr. Jaeger said.

"If you're on your feet constantly, you should replace your shoes every six months to one year, or between 300 and 500 miles of usage," she said.

Regular stretching also is important. Dr. Jaeger suggests freezing a bottle of water and then rolling your foot over the bottle to stretch and ice the inflamed tissue. A tennis ball also works without the cooling effect. Over-the-counter pain reliever and anti-inflammatory medicine might help control pain.

In some cases, surgery might be needed to get rid of the pain. You can experience more severe problems if the pain is left untreated and it might eventually cause other foot, hip, back and knee problems.

Jaeger said the pain in many of her patients dissipates after a month or two. To prevent injury from reoccurring, she urges her patients to resist wearing flip-flops or spending too much time barefoot, which give the foot no arch support.

"Your feet are like tires on a car," Dr. Jaeger said. "If they're not working correctly, you won't go far and can't do the things you want."