It is essential to get at least a moderate amount of exercise each day. Walking is often considered to be a great, low-impact activity for keeping your weight in check and your hearth healthy.
However, if your feet are in poor health, walking can be the beginning of a vicious cycle that can cause foot pain to worsen and – in some cases – take weeks or months to go away. This may cause you to avoid the exercise altogether… due to fear of injury.
One injury that many walkers get is something called Plantar Fasciitis.
Plantar Fasciitis is a condition that causes strain, inflammation, and injury to your plantar fascia ligament, which spans the arch from the ball to the heel of your foot. The ligament can become stiff and cold while you sleep, or sit, for a prolonged period of time. This makes it more painful to stand up.
Plantar fasciitis can cause pain and inflammation in your arch, as well as sharp heel pain. This is most common for people with flat feet.
If you’re currently suffering from Plantar Fasciitis, then you might be wondering if walking can help or hurt your condition.
So in this article, we’ll provide a quick answer to this question, and also provide a few actionable tips to alleviate the pain from Plantar Fasciitis while walking.
Let’s get to it.
Is Walking Good for Plantar Fasciitis?
Yes. Despite the fact that there is some risk of making the injury worse, walking is a great way to ease back from a plantar fasciitis injury if you do it correctly.
What do I mean by this?
For starters, the minute you experience any pain or discomfort, you should immediately slow your pace. Next, you’ll want to avoid hard surfaces. Some who suffer with Plantar Fasciitis have found better results walking on gravel or grass.
Dr. Kristina DeMatas, a licensed, practicing Physician at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL, encourages her patients to walk as much as their pain level will allow. She says, “If you’re a chronic plantar fasciitis sufferer, you can’t let foot and heel pain stop you from getting the exercise you need. Walking, stretching, strengthening are the best exercises for plantar fasciitis.” In fact, as you walk at a comfortable pace, heel pain may decrease because the ligament has had time to warm up.
DeMatas also attests that walking by itself doesn’t make Plantar Fasciitis worse. The difference is in the way you walk. This includes how you balance on each foot, and your walking habits.
6 Tips for Walking with Plantar Fasciitis
As we mentioned, it’s more about your walking habits than anything else when it comes to finding success walking with plantar fasciitis. Here are some more tips for making your transition to healing a successful one.
Always stretch… even if you think your walk it too short to warrant it. Some light stretching in the mornings, and at night before bed, will go a long way in helping to loosen that ligament and avoid the injury from worsening.
This principle applies to all walks – regardless of whether they are outdoors, on a track or on a treadmill. Stretching is more than just a way to reduce foot pain. It will also improve your performance and reduce soreness. Because everything is interconnected, be sure you stretch your ankle, hamstring, calf, groin muscle and lower back as well.
2. Avoid the Treadmill
When walking outdoors is not always possible due to weather conditions, or where you live, many are tempted to hit the gym. Should you be one of these people, and are suffering from plantar fasciitis, you should turn to low-impact equipment… such as the rowing machine, recumbent bike, elliptical or arc trainer.
These machines don’t allow you to walk at the same speed as a treadmill, but they reduce the pressure on your feet and strengthen the supporting muscle group, while still providing an effective cardiovascular workout.
3. Invest in the right Footwear
Shoes the offer proper support can really speed up the healing process from a plantar fasciitis flare-up. You can also try using a foot wrap, compression sleeves, or plantar fasciitis socks to support your feet.
Shoe inserts can be used to add extra cushioning and arch support. Some folks also swear by heal seats.
4. Ice your Feet to reduce Inflammation
Place a cold pack on the foot for 15-20 minutes after you have finished walking. This will help reduce inflammation. You can even place a frozen water bottle underneath your foot.
5. Rest and Avoid High-Impact Activities
Spend at least 20 minutes resting your feet after walking. Elevate the foot also to increase circulation.
Furthermore, it’s a good idea to avoid high-impact activities, like basketball and jogging, until you feel better. These put unnecessary strain on the foot, especially as you lift onto your toes or pivot quickly.
6. Don’t Test Your Limits
Rest can reduce inflammation, which may make you start to feel better… or create the illusion that you’re healed; but, the plantar fascia must still be stretched and massaged gently to fully heal.
This means not putting extra strain on your feet by trying to do too much too soon. During self-treatment, avoid running or other high-impact exercises. Instead, continue to walk at a comfortable pace for at least two weeks.
When Should You Not Walk with Plantar Fasciitis?
When you experience pain simply walking from one room to the next, your body is trying to tell you something. Listen to it and take a break. It is not uncommon for conditions such as plantar fasciitis and heel spurs to make it difficult to get out of bed some days.
A doctor can help properly diagnose the condition, should it persist for more than a week or so. Always see a doctor if the pain becomes so severe that it disrupts your daily routine. If left untreated, it can lead to additional injuries, including Achilles tendonitis or worse… as your body will seek to compensate for the pain with improper posture.
Final Thoughts on Walking with Plantar Fasciitis
It is important to stay in good shape… which is why you can’t allow foot and heel pain to stop you from getting the exercise that you need, even if you have chronic plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis can be treated with stretching, strengthening, icing and walking at a comfortable pace. Slowing down doesn’t mean you’re giving up.
Your feet with thank you later when you give them the rest they need, dial things down a notch for a week or so, and invest in a quality walking shoe and support. After that, it’s as simple as taking a leisurely walk around the block to relieve your plantar fasciitis pain.
Start your journey back by literally putting one foot in front the other… taking it one step, and one day, at a time. Your best chance at a full recovery is taking notice of your symptoms early and listening to your body when it’s trying to tell you something.