Live Better

How to relieve foot and heel pain

Sports podiatrist Emily Smith gives advice on how to treat foot and heel pain.

Foot and heel pain, or plantar fasciitis, is a common roadblock to an active lifestyle. The classic presentation of plantar fasciitis is pain in the heel and/or arch of the foot, usually first thing in the mornings or after a period of rest. The pain may subside as the foot ‘warms up’, but it can be relentless throughout the day.

To relieve this pain, it helps to have an understanding of what plantar fasciitis is and why it occurs. The plantar fascia is one of the major soft tissue structures under the foot. It acts like a rubber band, lengthening and contracting with foot motion to provide foot stability and support.

If there is abnormal load on the plantar fascia (often from things like significant increase in exercise, poor footwear or poor lower limb mechanics), micro-tears may form, much like if you pull harshly on a rubber band. This can create an inflammatory process leading to pain and debilitation. Over time, it may lead to bone spur growth.

At night or during periods of rest (including sitting behind a desk), the body’s healing mechanisms start the repair process on the micro-tears. However, this fine work is quickly reversed with the first few steps you take, creating a re-tearing effect on the fascia.

“The plantar fascia acts like a rubber band, lengthening and contracting with foot motion to provide foot stability and support.” 


How to treat plantar fasciitis

The key is to break the cycle of tear-repair-tear by taking advantage of the body’s ability to repair, and reducing the likelihood of re-tearing.

Here are two things you can try:

1. Roll your foot over a glass bottle (or similar device) first thing before stepping out of bed to stretch and release the plantar fascia. Likewise, keep a frozen water bottle in the freezer at home and at work to massage the arch when eating breakfast, and at any other time when you will be sitting down for long periods. Keep it close and massage before you stand up.

2. Supporting your foot to reduce the load on the fascia is highly recommended. A health professional will help identify the individual factors requiring attention, including stretching, strengthening, training modification, running technique, footwear and poor foot mechanics, potentially requiring orthotics.

Most cases can be resolved with the simple management techniques described above. For cases that don’t respond to these methods, an immobilising aid such as a boot or crutches can be used, and a referral to a sports physician may be appropriate for further assessment and/or injection therapy.

Latest Articles


How to start riding or walking to work

Fit exercise into your day on the way to work.

Read more

Why women should do weights

Strength training isn’t just for muscle bros.

Read more

Why getting active as a family is so good for you

From a weekend bike ride to playing chasey in the backyard.

Read more

What are Kegels?

And why you need to do them.

Read more

How sport can inspire recovery and connection

Jocelyn takes aim at the Invictus Games Sydney 2018.

Read more
youtubeui-checkbox-tickui-checkbox-emptyui-checkbox-crosstwitterui-checkbox-tickWellbeing and mindfulness 1Physical Health 1Positive psychology 101 1Wellbeing and mindfulness 4All about gut health 1Understanding Genetics 4Planning for Pregnancy 2During Pregnancy 3The mind-gut connection 4The mind-gut connection 1New Parents 3Page 1Group 10During Pregnancy 2Page 1Physical Health 2Planning for Pregnancy 1Positive psychology 101 1Positive psychology 101 4Planning for Pregnancy 4Understanding Genetics 1Physical Health 4Planning for Pregnancy 3Nutrition 4New Parents 1New Parents 3 CopyMovement for your mind 4Wellbeing and mindfulness 2Nutrition 2sob-icon__mind-bodysob-icon__man-with-laptopAll about gut health 2Positive psychology 101 3Positive psychology 101 2Physical Health 3Wellbeing and mindfulness 3All about gut health 3genetics-changing-what-your-givenUnderstanding Genetics 2During Pregnancy 1Movement for your mind 2Movement for your mind 1Movement for your mind 3During Pregnancy 4