Is there anything you can do to strengthen the plantar fascia muscles in your feet?
Yes, although maybe not exactly the way you’re thinking. The plantar fascia is not a muscle, so it can’t be built up in the same way. But there are things you can do to prevent and facilitate recovery from plantar fasciitis — an inflammation of the plantar fascia and the most common cause of heel pain.
The plantar fascia is a wide strip of dense, fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. It attaches to the heel bone and extends up to the base of the toes. The plantar fascia is a supportive structure that, among other things, helps the foot push off when walking or running.
Plantar fasciitis may have several causes, but it typically results from repetitive motion sports such as running, standing or walking for long periods on hard surfaces, and from being overweight or gaining weight. People often suffer from it not long after starting a new running or walking program. It sometimes occurs as part of aging, when the plantar fascia loses some of its elasticity and becomes more vulnerable to injury.
To prevent plantar fasciitis, you wouldd be wise to learn stretching exercises for the muscles of the foot and lower leg, particularly the calf. Perform them religiously when you exercise. Look for stretches that are specific to whatever sport or activity you do. Stretch gently before you work out and more intensely afterward. Stretching after exercise is one of the most important preventive measures for all kinds of injuries. For work-related problems, you can do simple stretching exercises right on the job.
Muscle-building exercises for the foot and lower leg may also be helpful. Make sure you warm up a little before you start and to stretch afterward. Stretching exercises can be done every day, but strength-training with weights should not be done more frequently than every other day.
If you develop heel pain or if you already have it, don’t try to push or work through pain. Scale back on your activities as necessary and ask your doctor for advice on treatment. Plantar fasciitis often won’t get better without attention. Sometimes it takes weeks or even months before you can return to your previous level of exercise. But the good news is that simple treatment measures usually do the trick and surgery is rarely required.