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Plantar Fasciitis can be a very painful condition in the bottom of the feet. Many people attempting self-treatment wonder how to know when plantar fasciitis is starting to heal. This article is a guide to this particular kind of foot pain and the 5 most important signs plantar fasciitis is healing.

Understanding Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis foot pain drawing
Plantar fasciitis arises from strain and inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes. This band acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring, supporting the arch in your foot. When tension and stress on this bowstring become too great, small tears can arise in the fascia. Repeated stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed.

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Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a sharp, stabbing pain in the heel of the foot. It can be so bad that people feel they can’t walk. This is often most intense with the first steps after waking up in the morning or after long periods of sitting. The pain can also flare up after prolonged periods of standing or when standing up after sitting. The discomfort might lessen after a few steps but can return after standing for awhile. 

Some people also experience a dull ache in the heel or the arch of the foot. The pain is usually worse following exercise. Runners and those who are overweight, are more likely to be developing plantar fasciitis. Shoes with inadequate support can also be a risk.

Realistic Healing Expectations: Five Signs of Healing

The duration of plantar fasciitis varies widely among individuals. For some, relief comes within weeks, while others may experience symptoms for over a year. This variation stems from the unpredictable nature of the inflammation associated with plantar fasciitis, influenced by lifestyle, treatment effectiveness, and individual body responses.

Relieving pain from plantar fasciitis requires patience and a positive mindset. Since healing times differ, avoid rushing the process or becoming discouraged by slow progress.

Here are five indicators you are healing from plantar fasciitis:

Sign 1: Reduced Heel Pain 

One of the most tangible signs of healing is reduced pain in the heel. As the inflammation begins to subside, you’ll likely notice a significant decrease in discomfort. The change in pain can be gradual. Initially, you may feel a slight decrease in the intensity of the pain, which is a good sign that healing is underway.

Tracking Changes in Heel Pain

You can try monitoring changes in heel pain levels. Notice the severity of the pain in the heel bone during the first steps in the morning. Plantar fasciitis often causes intense discomfort after a period of rest, making mornings particularly painful. As the condition improves, this morning pain should lessen, making it easier to get out of bed and start your day.

 

Sign 2: Decreased Swelling and Increased Foot and Ankle Mobility

Another positive sign of healing is a noticeable decrease in swelling around the affected area. Reduced swelling is often accompanied by an increase in foot and ankle mobility. As the inflammation diminishes, you’ll find it easier to move your foot and ankle without discomfort. 

Improvement in Foot and Ankle Health

This improvement in mobility results from the foot and ankle regaining their natural range of motion. With reduced swelling and pain, the foot can function more normally.. This is a significant step towards full recovery.  It suggests that the tissues in the foot are healing and regaining their strength.

Sign 3: Enhanced Strength and Comfort in Physical Activities

Increased foot and leg strength can also indicate subsiding pantar fasciitis. These gains can be quite gradual. As pain decreases, you can engage more in physical activities, which helps to strengthen the muscles in the foot and leg. 

This increased strength not only aids in the healing of plantar fasciitis but also helps in preventing future occurrences. Stronger muscles provide better support to the foot, reducing the risk of re-injury.

Increased Comfort During Routine Activities

You also should find routine activities more comfortable. When plantar fasciitis is at its worst, even simple tasks like walking or standing can be painful and challenging. As the condition heals, these activities become less painful.

These lifestyle changes alongside the use of medical devices and other treatments can create a better approach to managing plantar fasciitis. Together, these strategies can help you return to your normal activities with less pain and more confidence.

 

Plantar fasciitis pain is usually most severe in the morning. A beautiful, peaceful bedroom shows some sign of healing.

Sign 4: Morning Routine Becomes Easier

Another sign is when getting out of bed in the morning becomes less of a challenge. For many suffering from plantar fasciitis, the first steps in the morning are often the most painful. This is due to the foot being in a resting position overnight, which can cause the plantar fascia to contract and become stiff. As healing progresses, this morning discomfort should noticeably diminish.

Easing into the Day with Less Discomfort

The reduction in morning pain is a significant indicator of improvement. This allows for a more comfortable start to your day.  Routine morning activities like walking to the bathroom or preparing breakfast become much easier.

Integrating supportive footwear into your daily life can also aid in making mornings more bearable. Shoes with proper arch support and cushioning can help alleviate the stress on the plantar fascia. Wearing these shoes from the first step in the morning can make a big difference in how your feet feel throughout the day.

Sign 5: Improved Sleep Quality and Overall Well-being

Finally, your sleep quality should improve. Chronic plantar fasciitis pain, can significantly disrupt sleep patterns. As the pain subsides and nights become more comfortable, you may find yourself sleeping better and feeling more rested in the morning.

When sleep quality improves, physical healing and overall well-being also improve. To further promote healing, consider adjusting your sleeping environment to support your foot. For example, keeping a pillow under your legs can help maintain a gentle stretch in the plantar fascia. This can reduce the tightness felt in the morning.

one leg calf raise helps strengthen muscles with exercise on a vibration plate.

Tips to Accelerate Healing and Prevent Plantar Fasciitis

To accelerate healing, consider whole body vibration exercise. You also should include regular tissue massage and stretching. Also try icing, plenty of rest, comfortable shoes, and a consistent exercise schedule.

Whole Body Vibration Therapy

Whole body vibration exercises have been found effective in relieving symptoms of plantar fasciitis. The ideal whole body vibration is on oscillating plates with low-frequency vibrations below 15 hz. Sit on a stool in front of the vibration plate and place the feet on the moving platform, rather than standing with full weight on it. 

Benefits of Whole Body Vibration for Plantar Fasciitis

    • Increased Blood Circulation: The vibrations from the plate stimulate blood flow in the lower extremities, including the feet. Improved circulation delivers oxygen and nutrients to the affected area. This is crucial for healing and reducing the inflammation associated with plantar fasciitis.
    • Muscle Strengthening: The vibrations engage leg muscles, including those connected to the plantar fascia. These stronger muscles provide better support and reduce strain on the foot.

Other Effective Healing Strategies

Several other plantar fasciitis treatments can speed up healing and prevent recurrence:

    • Regular Tissue Massage and Stretching: Massaging the affected area can significantly improve flexibility and reduce stress on the heel. This involves gentle, circular motions around the heel and along the arch of the foot, which can help loosen tight tissues, promote blood flow, and ease discomfort. 

Stretching exercises, especially those targeting the calf muscles and plantar fascia, are equally important. Daily routines like towel stretches, calf stretches, and toe extensions can help in maintaining flexibility, reducing tension on the plantar fascia, and preventing further injury.

 

    • Icing for Inflammation: Applying ice to the inflamed area is a simple yet effective method for reducing swelling and pain, especially after activities that strain the foot. Using a cold pack or frozen water bottle, apply ice to the heel for about 15-20 minutes several times a day. This helps to constrict blood vessels, reducing inflammation and numbing pain. It’s important not to apply ice directly to the skin; instead, wrap it in a thin towel to avoid frostbite.
    • Resting and Gradual Reintroduction of Activities: Rest is a critical component of healing from plantar fasciitis. It’s crucial to avoid activities that exacerbate the pain, such as long periods of standing or walking, especially on hard surfaces. Gradually reintroducing activities is key; start with low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling before gradually moving back to regular routines. Listen to your body and increase activity levels slowly to avoid overstraining the healing tissues.
    • Wearing Comfortable and Supportive Shoes: Wear shoes with good arch support and cushioning. Shoes that fit well and provide adequate support to the arches can significantly reduce stress on the plantar fascia. Avoid high heels and opt for shoes with a slightly raised heel, as they can help reduce tension on the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. Insoles or custom orthotics can also be beneficial.
    • Building a Healing Schedule: Consistency is key in treating plantar fasciitis. Consider dedicating specific times each day to treatment practices like stretching, massaging, icing, and resting. A well-structured schedule helps in making these activities a part of your daily routine.

Summary: Recognize The Signs and Encourage Healing

Understanding the symptoms and signs of healing can help you stay motivated to continue treatment and self-care. Staying positive, monitoring progress, and seeking professional advice when necessary are integral parts of the recovery journey. 

Whole body vibration exercises, stretching, ice, and rest can help. With patience, you can recover! Plantar fasciitis can be healed. 

References

Young, Craig C. et al. “Treatment of plantar fasciitis.” American family physician 63 3 (2001): 467-74, 477-8.

Rest, stretching, strengthening, change of shoes, arch supports, orthotics, night splints, anti-inflammatory agents, and surgery are treatment options for plantar fasciitis.

Goff JD, Crawford R. Diagnosis and treatment of plantar fasciitis. Am Fam Physician. 2011 Sep 15;84(6):676-82. PMID: 21916393.

Rest, activity modification, ice massage, oral analgesics, and stretching techniques can be tried for several weeks.

Lim AT, How CH, Tan B. Management of plantar fasciitis in the outpatient setting. Singapore Med J. 2016 Apr;57(4):168-70; quiz 171. doi: 10.11622/smedj.2016069. PMID: 27075037; PMCID: PMC4853481.

Treatment is largely nonoperative, with 90%-95% of patients experiencing resolution of symptoms within 12-18 months. A gradual return to activity may be allowed after the patient is asymptomatic for 4-6 weeks and no longer has localised tenderness over the plantar fascia.

On H, Yim J. Effects of local vibration combined with extracorporeal shock wave therapy in plantar fasciitis: a randomized controlled trial. J Rehabil Med. 2023 Oct 23;55:jrm12405. doi: 10.2340/jrm.v55.12405. PMID: 37869937; PMCID: PMC10614648.

Local vibration combined with extracorporeal shock wave therapy is an effective treatment for chronic plantar fasciitis.