Plantar fasciitis can bring down even the strongest men. In sports, we see athlete after athlete sidelined because of this particular malady — a maddening diagnosis that can make one dread just getting out of bed to walk to the bathroom. It can be excruciating, and follows you around with no respite.
For as common as plantar fasciitis is, little is understood in the medical field about the causes of it. There is, however, consensus on what it is technically, an irritation or inflammation in the plantar fascia often accompanied by tiny tears in the fascia itself. While I agree that plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury, I have my own theory on the true cause.
In my clinical work, I have seen plantar fasciitis develop because people are not using their posterior chain efficiently while walking or running. I see two main issues associated with this foot pain: lack of hip extension and/or overuse of the soleus (your lower calf muscle), both of which cause your feet to get tight and your plantar fascia to overwork. Step after step, day after day, your gait is not efficient and forces are not transferred properly through the body, leading to injury.
Almost everyone needs to open up their hip flexors. We all know that sitting too much is wreaking havoc on our bodies, and there has been a spate of articles detailing all of the disheartening facts. In addition to all the other issues, tight hip flexors will cause a lack of hip extension and cause glutes to work inefficiently.
Here's a routine that will release your hip flexors, soleus, and get you back on track:
Hip Flexor Release
For this release, use two lacrosse balls taped together.
- Lay on your stomach and place the double lacrosse ball just below your hip bone.
- Lean a tolerable amount of weight onto the lacrosse balls.
- Bend the knee on the side of the release back to a 90 degree angle.
- Swing your leg side to side in a tolerable range of motion.
- Repeat this in 30-second to two-minute intervals.
- Holding two dumbbells, lie with your upper back flat on a bench or table with your legs and low back off the edge and feet on the ground.
- Place the dumbbell on your hips.
- Dip your glutes down and then thrust back up, squeezing your glutes through the movement.
- To make it more challenging, add a band around your knees just below the knee.
- Sit with your calf on top of the lacrosse ball.
- Place your other leg over the one you are releasing and roll yourself up and down over the ball.
- Once you find a spot that is tender, stop and point your foot up and down for 30 seconds.
Plantar Fascia Release
- Standing with a lacrosse ball or golf ball: Place the ball on the bottom of your foot.
- With weight placed through your leg, gently roll the ball under your foot.
- Once you find a spot that is tender, stop and point your toes up and down.
- Roll on the ball for one to two minutes.
- Stand with chest against a stability ball, rested on a wall, legs straight out behind you until heel isn’t touching the floor.
- Shift your weight all to one leg with the other leg resting on the back of the working leg. Slightly bend your knee.
- Go up on your toes, then come all the way back down until heel touches the floor.
- Repeat the motion with working leg straight. Perform exercise with foot pointing straight and foot turned outwards.
- If this is too difficult, you can perform with both feet on the ground.
David Reavy, founder of Chicago-based React Physical Therapy, is the creator of the Reavy Method, a whole body approach to physical therapy and exercise. Reavy works with numerous pro athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLS, and the WNBA.