Experiences with flat feet and/or plantar fasciitis?
April 14, 2007 9:12 PM   Subscribe

FeetFilter: Anyone out there with plantar fasciitis caused by very flat feet? What worked for you to get rid of it? How long did it take?

A running injury led me to see a podiatrist who pointed out about 6 months ago that I have very flat feet. Got custom orthotics, which unfortunately didn't help very much with the foot pain.

Started using a night brace, which seems to help, but if I skip a day or two, I lose any progress I've made.

Static calf stretches don't seem to help much; my calf just gets tighter the next day (and I'm trying to be careful not to overstretch)

I'm already seeing 2 podiatrists (one does the orthotics) and a physical therapist for an associated knee injury that's not quite healing..

So, questions would be:
-What are your experiences with plantar fasciitis and/or flat feet? What worked? What didn't? What was the treatment timeline?
-Is there any way to really check out your foot/leg alignment before and after the orthotics to see whether it's really supplying the proper correction? In Los Angeles? (My podiatrist that made the orthotics seems like he knows what he's doing, and the orthotic was made from a plaster cast instead of the apparently more inaccurate foam casting, but I worry about the lack of progress with my foot and the knee injury that wont go away)
posted by sdis to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I did all the stuff you did and found it didn't help much. What did help (and I don't have any idea why) was practicing a tae kwon do foot pose used for side kicks. One of the contact areas for a kick is the knife edge (the outside) of the foot. I had a real hard time pulling the inside of my foot up so the knife edge would be ready quickly. After practicing this movement a lot, the PF went away.

This side kick sort of illustrates what I'm talking about. It's hard to describe what I did with text but I'll give it a shot.

Stand up in a relaxed pose. Grab a door frame if you need balance. Lift your right left out and up a few inches. With your right leg up, lift up the inside of the foot and try to keep the outside edge low and perpendicular to your leg. It helps to curve your foot inward a little, like making a fist.

As for my similar knee injury, the only thing that helped was stopping any serious exercise. I'm back in the gym now but I don't do much running or jumping. It sucks but I'm not in pain anymore.
posted by chairface at 2:03 AM on April 15, 2007

there are some good previous threads on plantar fasciitis. i had a bad bout about a year ago and they cleared up in about six weeks of regular icing and stretching. i iced them twice/day and stretched/massaged my feet every morning before i got out of bed. i also found that wearing shoes with a negative heel (earth shoes) stretched out the achilles tendon in a way that helped relieve the foot pain. good luck.
posted by judith at 3:30 AM on April 15, 2007

I've had PF caused by very flat feet and it HURTS! My Ortho gave me something simillar to the sock.

As long as I wore it, and turned my activity level down a notch, the pain went away after a few weeks. I slowed my activity down but didn't stop.

Sounds like you're doing the right thing-give it some time.
posted by neilkod at 4:45 AM on April 15, 2007

By the way, I've been prescribed orthotics for various ailments and they never seemed to help. My flat feet have also given me wicked cases of IT-band tendonitis
posted by neilkod at 4:46 AM on April 15, 2007

I've found that the only stretch that helps my plantar fasciitis is the stair stretch. It's the only thing I've found that stops the pain and heads off minor PF occurances before they become major flareups. However, I'm told it's not recommended for people with knee problems. Since my bad knee is on the opposite side from my PF foot, I just do the stretch one-footed, but YMMV.
posted by backupjesus at 5:25 AM on April 15, 2007

Mine seems to come and go at will, for months at a time.

I can't tell from your profile if you are a man or woman, but I'm a girls and have had to give up certain kinds of flat shoes, as they make my PF much worse. I am also careful not to walk too fast when I'm in work shoes, because the pounding of feet-in-flats on sidewalk was what caused mine in the first place.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:33 AM on April 15, 2007

Also don't wear flip flops or any shoes that make your toes curl under in order to stay on. Apparently that makes things worse.
posted by konolia at 5:37 AM on April 15, 2007

I'll second BUJesus on the stair stretch. Other than that, it seems time is the best healer. I had it while working on a project in Taipei, and by the end of a 2km walk to the office, I was in visible pain every morning. Other than time, I also switched to wearing Clarks shoes. As a fellow flat-footer, their better arch support and sole design alleviated some of the pain almost immediately.
posted by flyingrock at 6:56 AM on April 15, 2007

My PF is a repetitive stress injury from tennis. It can be tremendously painful.

Here's what I do, and works well enough although nothing has worked as a permanent cure:

Get inserts designed for heel pain. Experiment with different types. I vary which I use, according to what shoes I'm wearing. My podiatrist scoffs at expensive orthotics.

Don't do the cortisone shots. I've heard this aggravates PF as it masks the symptoms and causes you to drop your guard so that it returns, often worse.

Do not get out of bed in the morning with out flexing and stretching your foot.

Don't walk barefoot during a flare-up. Even when you hit the bathroom in the middle of the night, slip some shoes on. Get something you can slip on that has some decent support -- I use clogs.

Sadly, no more flip-flops.

Use a towel or a bathrobe belt to stretch out your arch. You can find the technique online.

Buy a Step Stretch (and other stuff) online at footsmart.

Ice and massage when it's really bad.

When you are sitting at the computer, roll a tennis ball back and forth under the arch of your foot. It feels great, you can do it forever and it really helps stretch out the arch.

An ongoing regimen of anti-inflammatories is key -- take them regularly when the flare-up is intense, cut back to a couple of times a day when you feel better.

Good luck, I'm managing it, but it's a drag.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:36 AM on April 15, 2007

I had it and got relief from the orthotics. In my case, walking barefoot didn't seem to do any harm -- it was shoes with bad support that were the worst.
For reasons unknown to me, my plantar fasciitis has almost completely resolved, even though my feet are still flat as a pancake (and I still walk like a duck, in the words of my podiatrist -- severe overpronation as well as an overrotation of the hip causing splay feet).
As far as treatment timeline goes, I was probably 2-4 years having to wear the arch supports consistently (say, 5 days a week) and then for another couple of years wearing them when the pain returned. It's now been 14 years since I started treatment (I was an adolescent when it started, which may help explain the total resolution of the pain). Not sure if this is at all useful, but I hope you find some relief. Walking on knives = not fun.
posted by katemonster at 10:02 AM on April 15, 2007

I had it to the point of the Doctor wanting to give me some sort of shots on a monthly basis(cortisone I think). I started taking yoga classes at a yoga studio and it cleared up in about 8 months. I'm assuming the yoga is responsible for this but who knows.
posted by philad at 5:31 PM on April 15, 2007

I had flat feet all my life and after about 6 months of yoga I noticed that I now have textbook normal arches. I think it's all the 1 legged balance poses, very similar to chairface's TKD side kicks.
posted by hindmost at 9:43 PM on April 15, 2007

Get hot babe. Lay on your stomach. Have her lay face down on you and hook her toes on your heels about where your achilles tendons are. She can then stretch the crap out of you, thereby making you taller and hurt less in the PF part. Then have her lay next to you and 'walk' on your calves (cows, too). Works great and gives temporary relief. There is no 'cure' for PF but there is therapeutic relief to be had. Prepare to suffer without excessively kvetching about it. Moaning helps during the walking and stretching therapy. Moan loudly and make the neighbors jealous. Repeat as needed.

Oh, and get comfortable shoes, too. Good luck with it.
posted by tonebarge at 1:00 PM on April 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've had flat feet all my life, and I started experiencing plantar fascitis a few years ago in my left foot.

PF is caused mostly by weak and overstressed foot muscles. Using orthotics only compounded my problem by making my foot muscles even more weak and lazy. I recommend against them unless you don't mind relying on them for the rest of your life...

Two solutions that worked wonders for me: going barefoot as often as possible and losing weight. Going barefoot increases muscle strength, and losing weight reduces the stress on the muscles.

If you're overweight, losing some pounds should be your number one concern. Taking the stress off the muscles pretty much stops the problem dead in its tracks.

Whether or not you're overweight, going barefoot will also greatly reduce or eliminate the problem (at least in my experiences). Take long barefoot walks as often as you can on soft, uneven surfaces like grass, sand, dirt, mud, and so on.

I personally go barefoot just about everywhere now, but if the barefoot lifestyle isn't for you, you could try looking for some shoes with as close to zero arch support as possible (think Nike Frees, Converse All Stars, or crappy $1 beach flip flops).

Good luck!

Oh yeah: IANAD, YMMV, etc etc etc
posted by tipthepizzaguy at 9:20 PM on April 16, 2007

Don't give up! After two doctors, daily stretching, and painkillers, I still had such crippling pain that I could barely walk more than two blocks a day. I crawled from room to room in tears at night.

I tried more flexible shoes. I tried wearing the ankle "boots" at night. I tried every shoe insert from the drug store. I tried losing weight. I tried stair stretches and floor exercises. I tried rolling a frozen bottle of water under my feet. I tried SPENCO inserts. (My podiatrist recommended against custom orthotics on the premise that there's little evidence they work any better than OTC ones.) The pain was spreading to my knees and ankles because of how I walked when my PF made it too difficult to walk normally. I kept stumbling and hurting my knees and ankles. I felt like my podiatrist was out of ideas. I was desperate.

On the recommendation of a friend, I decided to go to a local pedorthist for an evaluation, fully expecting to have $300 custom "old folks" shoes made. (Certified Pedorthists usually work in a shoe shop. They're not doctors-- they sell shoes, foot products, and premade and custom orthotics.) I went as a last resort, figuring I'd get fleeced for a couple hundred. That's what pedorthists do, right? Make lots of money off of nurses, waitresses, and old folks.... Well, I'd already spent a ton on visits to the podiatrist, prescriptions, and "comfort shoes". I had little to lose.

Much like a podiatrist, the pedorthist examined my gait with and without shoes. He noticed I wasn't walking right in shoes that were large enough to accomodate the huge orthotics recommended by my podiatrist.

He recommended smaller, thinner inserts that I would wear in normal shoes (that fit my feet rather than fit the orthotics). $15. Isn't that embarassing? So much pain, so many doctors visits, and he was the only one who noticed. Within 2-3 weeks, my pain was totally gone. Nothing. Not even waking up in the morning or walking barefoot on hardwood floors. It's been gone for a year.

Keep trying. There is hope. For me, it came in the form of a pair of $15 Meltonian leather insoles and a professional who cared enough to look past the conventional answers and find what was right for me.
posted by Gable Oak at 9:23 AM on April 17, 2007 [4 favorites]

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