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What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition that causes pain in one or both heels. It happens when the plantar fascia ligaments in your feet — which act as shock absorbers — become damaged and inflamed.

If you’re finding that heel pain is getting in the way of your daily activities, try these quick tips for relief.

According to a 2015 study, lavender essential oil has anti-inflammatory properties that make it a possible treatment for pain caused by inflammation. Try diluting a drop or two in a carrier oil, such as olive or coconut oil, and massaging it into the bottoms of your feet. You can also try adding a few drops to a warm foot bath.

Try to wear shoes that provide good arch support and have a low heal, especially if you’re going to be on your feet a lot. This helps to support your plantar fascia and prevent them from becoming inflamed.

Your doctor may recommend orthotic shoe inserts or foot pads to help distribute your weight more evenly, especially if you have high arches. You can get them ready-made at most pharmacies, or your doctor can have some made custom for your feet. After a few months, you should be able to stop wearing them.

Night splints help to relieve plantar fasciitis by stretching your arches and calves overnight. These tend to work best for people who’ve had plantar fasciitis for at least six months. Most are meant to be used for one to three months and come in both hard and soft models.

If you regularly wear the same shoes to exercise, make sure to replace them regularly. Signs that you need a new pair include:

  • wear on the outsoles
  • stretching of the heels
  • molding of the insoles to the shape of your foot
  • breakdown of shoe interior
  • new blisters forming on your feet
  • new pain in your feet, legs, or back

Runners should replace their athletic shoes every 400–500 miles. Nonrunners should replace athletic shoes every six months or so, depending on how often you wear them.

To soothe the pain caused by plantar fasciitis, try gently stretching the arch of your foot and your calf. For example, try lunging forward with one leg and trying to get the foot on your other leg as close to the ground as you can. Check out these other stretches for plantar fasciitis.

You can perform simple massage techniques to soothe the pain in your heels. Use your thumbs to massage your arches and heels, working from the balls of your feet up to your heel. You can also use a golf ball to massage your arches. Put your foot on the golf ball, hang on to a stable item, and roll the golf ball under your arches.

While an ice cube can make a good massager, an ice pack can help to reduce inflammation. Cover your ice pack with a cloth or thin towel, and hold it over the painful area three to four times daily for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. You can also roll an ice cube under your foot, much like the golf ball above.

Carrying extra weight puts more pressure on your plantar fascia. If you’re overweight, losing a few pounds can help to alleviate some of that pressure. Work with your doctor to come up with a long-term plan that focuses on a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Sometimes, plantar fasciitis is a sign that your feet simply need to rest, especially if you regularly do high-impact sports. Giving your feet a break for a few days can help to reduce inflammation and let your plantar fascia heal. While you heal, try a low-impact activity, such as swimming.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), work to reduce inflammation in the body. This could help alleviate pain in your feet caused by inflamed plantar fascia. Just make sure you don’t take more than recommended and be aware of how they can interact with other medications.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENs) therapy relieves pain by low-voltage electric stimulation. It’s a noninvasive treatment that can be done by a professional or on your own with a TENs unit.

In some cases, you might need additional treatment for plantar fasciitis. If your foot pain doesn’t respond to any home treatments, contact your doctor. They may want to do some additional testing or take some X-rays to rule out any other causes of your foot pain. For severe plantar fasciitis, you may also need physical therapy or steroid injections.