Plantar fasciitis occurs when the tissue running along the sole of your foot (from the heel through the arch to the toes) becomes inflamed. It’s an extremely common (and extremely painful) condition that many tennis players experience. That’s why it’s so important that we stretch properly before and after we play, establish a fitness regimen to strengthen our muscles, and maintain a weight that our feet can support.
I have a lot of friends who’ve had plantar fasciitis, so when I first felt the pain, I knew right away that I had it too. The pain was the worst in the morning when I woke up. It literally felt like I had a rock embedded where my arch met my heel. Crap!
I hate going to the doctor for anything, so a friend let me borrow her walking boot to relieve some of the pressure when I was on my feet, but it was just a temporary solution, as the pain came right back once I took the boot off. I can’t play tennis like this – I can barely walk!
I finally gave in and went to a physician who specializes in sports injuries. She administered a cortisone shot and gave me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory. She also offered a recommendation to see both a podiatrist and a sports physical therapist. More doctors? Really??
Well, I blew off the podiatrist because I thought they would end up referring me to a PT anyway, but I did see a sports physical therapist. He determined that my problem didn’t begin in my foot, but in my legs, hips and core which weren’t strong enough to keep my body properly aligned for the rigorous up-and-back, side-to-side movements that playing tennis requires. So my therapy included not only working on my foot, but the rest of my body as well, strengthen my muscles to give me the support I need when I play.
My PT was preventing future injury, but I couldn’t figure out how to break up the stiff tissue in my foot and get back to square one, so I did what I should have done in the first place and booked an appointment to a podiatrist…and it was the best decision I could have made! He told me I was doing the right thing by seeing the PT, but for complete recovery, he said I needed a night splint.
Being the skeptic that I am, I didn’t believe that sleeping in a “foot prison” could possibly work, so I purchased the cheapest option with the best ratings I could find on Amazon: the Alpha Medical Brace ($26). It’s got three strips of velcro that I pulled as tightly as I could to keep my foot in the flexed position, pulling my toes back toward my shin. It took a few nights to get used to it, but then it actually felt fantastic to really stretch my arch, and it wasn’t long before I could get out of bed in the morning without the excruciating pain.
It took 6 months to completely heal (it would have been a lot sooner, but I hit the courts too soon and had to start all over again.) I’ve also purchased a few pairs of custom orthotics that I wear in all of my shoes. But I swear by this $26 Amazon boot — I know for a fact I wouldn’t have recovered so quickly without it.