How to Recover from Plantar Fasciitis

I’ve dealt with plantar fasciitis and I get asked pretty frequently what I did for it. Below is my own personal recovery regimen. It’s not medical advice and shouldn’t be taken as such. If you have symptoms (mainly, a painful or burning sensation in the heel, particularly in the first steps upon waking or standing), begin an active, not passive recovery process as soon as possible. I shut down my training within three runs of my first symptoms and still dealt with the injury for more than half a year.

I will reiterate that this was my own course of treatment. I’m sure that many others will offer their own paths to recovery in the comments. In fact, I encourage it. However, these, too, should be taken as personal paths to PF recovery. With that out of the way, here are a couple quick thoughts on PF.

First, recovery is a long, long process that you need to stick with even after symptoms abate!

In the short term:

  • Try wearing supportive shoes. I like light, flexible shoes, but ran in the Salomon XT Wings 2 with an aftermarket insole for 4-6 months. Cut out or limit uphill running for a while. Same goes for speed work. If you’re engaging your calves, you’re tightening the PF.
  • Wear a night brace. I couldn’t get used to fabric ones that really bent my toes up. A hard boot is so worth it.
  • ALWAYS wear a supportive shoe until you’re 100% healthy. That means in the house, in the shower, and for your very first and very last steps of the day. First thing in the morning is key. If you’ve got PF, you’ll have noticed pain or at least severe tightness in your arch when you take your first steps.
  • Stretch your calves. Stand on some stairs with the edge of your toes at the ball of you feet. Transfer 60-70% of your weight to one calf. Hold for 90 seconds… or, as I prefer, 3×30 seconds with a 2-3 second release between stretches. Repeat with your other foot, even if it’s uninjured. Repeat this 3 times a day.
  • Ice the affected area 1-3 times a day for 10-15 minutes each time.
  • I took ibuprofen per directions for a couple months. I’m not sure I would do this if I had a recurrence.
  • Roll a tennis ball under your arch for a few minutes 2-3 times a day. Over time you’ll feel you need to increase the pressure to get any result. Eventually, you can move on to a golf ball. Do this on a light to medium weight carpet. It does not work well on hard floors as the ball tends to scoot away.
  • I used KT Tape with good success.

As part of both the short and long term:

  • I was told that I needed to learn how to reengage and strengthen your glutes. For a while, I did sidelying hip abductor exercises. Once you start doing the sidelying hip abduction exercise, you’ll be able to feel your glutes when running… practice engaging them. I found it was easiest to do so on slight inclines.
  • Work on your core strength. I did plank circuits.
  • It was also recommended that I work on ankle mobility.

Long Term:

  • GRADUALLY work back to normal support in shoes and amount of shoeless walking.
  • Graduate to more intense core and glute exercises.
  • Eventually, I switched to eccentric calf strengthening. Basically, it’s the same as the stretching, except I started out with two feet together. I’d get on my toes, slowly drop down (2 count), and then raise back up. I started with 3 set of 20 with the sets spaced at least 15 minutes apart if not much longer. You can build up the number in a set to 40 or 50… and then move on to doing single leg raises and drops.

Call for Comments
Have you dealt with plantar fasciitis? If so, how did you approach treatment? How long was your path to recovery?