The first night I tried to fall asleep with a plantar fasciitis night splint strapped around my left foot and calf, I felt like I was wearing a downhill ski boot to bed.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought as I reclined flat on my back and looked down at my painted pink toenails jutting out from their plastic prison.
Plantar fasciitis is pain and inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue which runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.
My mom suffered for years from plantar fasciitis; she stopped taking walks because of it. I have friends that can’t play tennis, backpack, and hunt because of unbearable heel pain. When I went to purchase my night splint at the local pharmacy, I met a construction worker who said he had to crawl to the bathroom in the morning because his heel “hurt like hell.”
Thinking back, my pain began last winter with an uncomfortable, nagging feeling at the point where my heel meets my arch; it felt like there was a stick or a pencil in my sneaker.
And then just two months ago, I rolled myself out of bed in the middle of the night to use the restroom. When I took my first step on the hardwood floor, a sudden pain shot up my heel; it felt like a knife stabbing me through the foot. I knew exactly what was happening. For years, I’ve heard my mom and friends describe this trademark pain.
According to the www.MayoClinic.com, “Under normal circumstances, your plantar fascia acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring, supporting the arch in your foot. But, if tension on that bowstring becomes too great, it can create small tears in the fascia. Repetitive stretching or tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed.”
The pain usually occurs with the first steps in the morning. Once your foot loosens up, the pain decreases but often returns after standing in one place or sitting for extended periods.
Plantar fasciitis is particularly common in runners. It is most common in women ages 40 to 60 years. People who are overweight, women who are pregnant and those who wear shoes with inadequate support or have on-your-feet jobs are at a higher risk.
When it came to my plantar fasciitis, I chose to focus on therapies - orthotics, physical therapy, and night splints.
I decided to try the cheap, off-the-shelf orthotics first. The selection is endless, but I opted for my podiatrist friend’s recommendation -Polysorb by Spenco. I bought a pair for all of my shoes from hiking boots to running shoes to sandals.
I am not a flexible person. Tight calf muscles and Achilles tendons can cause tension on the plantar fascia, making it more susceptible to tears. I found many exercises online, showing me how to stretch and strengthen my feet and ankles.
I also sprung ten bucks for a silly-looking but simply divine contraption called, “the Flex-Tastic exerciser.” When I ran across this foam apparatus in the “feet” aisle of the pharmacy, just looking at it made my toes tingle and say, “ahhhh...”
The Flex-Tastic gently pulls your toes apart and stretches your entire foot and Achilles tendon. I’ve become addicted to my evening toe-stretching ritual.
And then there are the night splints. Many people hold off on night splints until they just can’t take the pain any longer - I bought them right away. The night brace holds the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight, allowing the tiny tears to heal. It took me a few nights to adapt to sleeping in a ski boot, but the effort was worth it. I no longer have any heel pain at all.
“Yeah, the splint helped me too,” a friend of mine said, and then pointed to her husband. “But he can’t stand it. I’m always kicking him with it. One night I scratched his leg.”
I’ve heard more than one husband whine about his wife wearing “the boot” to bed.
Suck it up, fellows.